Archive for March, 2014

You might be familiar with Maslow’s “hierarchy of needs”, but perhaps more interesting is Max Scheler’s “hierarchy of values”.


At the base of this pyramid are feelings of bodily sensations such as “a tickle, an itch, a fragrance, a taste, pleasure, pain, hunger, thirst, intoxication”. These are sometimes referred to as feelings of “utility” – because the “usefulness” of a sensation is the extent to which they are “agreeable or disagreeable”

Above these feelings of utility are “vital feelings” – which are those of the lived body as a whole – “health, vigor, strength, tiredness, illness, weakness, advancing age”

Then he describes those psychic feelings which have an ego quality – “happiness, sympathy, enjoyment, sadness, sorrow, anger, jealousy” – those which generate our values of beauty, truth and justice.

At the top of the pyramid are “holy feelings”, which come with a kind of dissolution of the ego – “bliss, awe, wonder, catharsis, despair, shame, remorse, anxiety, pangs of conscience, grief” – none of which can be reasoned with, but, rather are “heart-felt”

It can take a wee bit to get your head around this, but I do think it’s worthy of exploration.

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Move, move and be moved.








Move your body. If you wanted to do just one thing to improve your health then I’d suggest you move. Recent research has shown that rather than focus on certain types of exercise, or certain numbers of minutes exercising, what makes the most difference is the amount of time you spend sitting down in a day.

If you’re 60 and older, every additional hour a day you spend sitting is linked to doubling the risk of being disabled — regardless of how much exercise you get, reports a new study.


If there are two 65-year-old women, one sedentary for 12 hours a day and another sedentary for 13 hours a day, the second one is 50 percent more likely to be disabled, the study found.

Move from here to somewhere else. Travel, go trips, have a journey. Try something new. Try the 30 minute discovery challenge.

Be moved. Go to the movies. Listen to some music. Read a poem. Spend some time with someone who touches your heart. Stir your positive emotions.

Movement is Life.

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I was struck by a recent study looking at how much psychosis patients with schizophrenia (SZ) experience on anti-psychotics.

At each follow-up assessment over the 20 years, a surprisingly high percentage of SZ treated with antipsychotics longitudinally had psychotic activity. More than 70% of SZ continuously prescribed antipsychotics experienced psychotic activity at four or more of six follow-up assessments over 20 years. Longitudinally, SZ not prescribed antipsychotics showed significantly less psychotic activity than those prescribed antipsychotics . . . the condition of the majority of SZ prescribed antipsychotics for multiple years would raise questions as to how many of them are truly in remission.

In other words, not only do most patients with schizophrenia who are prescribed anti-psychotics continue to experience psychosis, but those who aren’t prescribed them experienced “significantly less psychotic activity”. What makes this study particularly unusual is that it was conducted over 20 years. This is highly unusual but more real life than the vast majority of studies which are quoted to give a drug “evidence based” status. Maybe it’s just not a good idea to keep somebody on the same drugs for decades?

That got me thinking about a related issue of prescribing drugs to healthy people to try and prevent disease. Think about statins for example. I found a good summary here.

Experts calculate that to save one life, or avoid a non fatal heart attack or stroke, you would need to treat 11 high-risk patients for 10 years.To save a life or avoid cardiovascular morbidity among low-risk patients the number you need to treat increases to 23. But different studies have looked at different types of patients and have yielded different results, so it is difficult to know if this pans out.US researchers estimate that for every 100 people without known heart disease who take statins for five years, 98 would see no benefit, and only one or two would avoid a heart attack that they might not have otherwise

Just read that last phrase again “for every 100 people without known heart disease who take statins for five years, 98 would see no benefit, and only one or two would avoid a heart attack that they might not have otherwise”. Seriously? Is this a great way to a healthier life, if you don’t already have heart disease? Well, for 98 out of 100 people, the answer is “no”. And what about the one or two who might avoid a heart attack? Nobody wants a heart attack, but time and time again, a “non-fatal heart attack” is a turning point for people. They make serious decisions about life style and change direction. They re-assess what is important to them, and if they stop smoking, cut back on their alcohol consumption and/or start exercising for 30 minutes a day, then the health benefits they will experience go way, way beyond the reduction in heart disease risk which a statin would bring.

We just can’t go taking one drug after another to avoid one disease after another, can we?

Doesn’t it make more sense to only take medication for short periods when it is really necessary, and to start to lead fuller, healthier lives right now, no matter what our current state of health?


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As I drove down the A1 the other day, this view across the fields to the North Sea caught my eye.

How lovely – Earth, Water and Air.

OK, I know some of you will be asking what about the Fire? (The Sun perhaps, even though its not directly in this shot!), but let’s stick with three for now. Three is a very common, holistic number.


In Japan, this “mitsudomoe” symbol historically represents Man, Earth and Sky.

Body, Mind and Spirit is one of our common triads, and in Celtic symbolism, that is captured with a “triskele“.

We created a charity in Scotland at the end of 2012 – The Vital Force – we chose this version of that ancient symbol –



Do you have a favourite triad – either in words or in a symbol?


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Yesterday I stopped to photograph some of the new lambs in the field near my house. I spotted this one –


…so took a couple of shots in quick succession – I think it clocked me – and this is what he, or she, thought about it –


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When I learned neuroanatomy at Medical School I was taught that the two cerebral hemispheres were symmetrical. There was no mention at all that they were in any way different. But look at this image above. (This is referred to as Yakovlevian Torque)

Clearly, the two hemispheres are NOT identical. In particular the right one is bigger at the front, and sits just a bit in front of the left, and the left one is bigger at the back, and sits just a little further back than the right.

Why might that be? Why the larger frontal area on the right, and occipital (back) area on the left?

Iain McGilchrist nicely summarises it by pointing out that how the left hemisphere approaches the world is by trying to grasp it. We try to make sense of the world by literally getting a hold of it – we want to understand it, to measure it, to predict what it going to happen by matching the patterns we see to those we have already learned from our experience, and we try to manipulate or control it. This is what the left hemisphere is really great at doing. Interestingly, the areas at the back of the brain are primarily for processing the outside world (our visual and auditory areas are toward the back, and the cerebellum which helps us to know whether we are standing up or falling over by orientating where we are in 3D space, is also to the back). The right hemisphere majors in making connections and maps. It has a significant role to play in all the skills we need to act as social animals.

So, one nice summary of why there might be this asymmetry in the brain, is to enable us to both grasp the world and to be social creatures. Amongst all the creatures on this planet we are probably the most able to manipulate our environment and the most developed as social animals.

There’s a huge amount more to this left brain/right brain understanding but I do think this is a fabulous starting point. Oh, and by the way, look at this


Interesting, huh? And how come this has been pretty much completely ignored for so long?

Well, Iain McGilchrist’s theory, written up in full in The Master and His Emissary, or summarised in the Kindle Single, The Divided Mind, is that we have over developed the left hemisphere approach so much that we have developed the tendency to see only what we have already “learned” – so if we were taught that it was symmetrical, and we haven’t explored the differences between the two hemispheres, then we’ve become a bit blind. Time to start using our whole brains?


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I came across the above quote in an interview with Ian Rankin, the author of the Rebus crime fiction books.

I think this is a such an important point about creativity. If we really want to let our imaginations flourish, don’t we need to stop being too serious, and setting it artificial limits. Have you seen how rich a life children create with their imaginations? It’s a constant inspiration!

So, with all the serious advice around about happiness, health, flourishing, etc, here’s an additional piece with quite a different flavour – play with your imaginary friends!






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Well, we could reflect on this subject for a long, long time! However, the point of the A to Z of Becoming series is to consider 26 verbs ie doing words which if you do them, you will experience the joy and deep satisfaction of becoming all you can be.

So, for this week, let’s do two things with love. Let’s start by either making a list, or reflectively meditating about who and what we love. This is love as it flows from you to the other. Who is included in your love world? When does your heart fill with love? It would be good to allow yourself to be honest and gentle with this. Don’t judge. Don’t judge the quality of the love or include who you think you should love but don’t! Instead get in touch with that loving feeling.

I remember years ago I used to listen to “pirate radio” stations – one in particular (Radio Caroline) used to talk all the time about “getting the LA habit” – by which they meant “loving awareness”. Maybe it became clichéd through repetition, so lost its power, but I still admired that they chose to put it out there (see the comments below). And that’s the second part of this week’s exercise….

Once you have become more aware of who you love, of when your heart fills with love, then ask yourself…when did you last vocalise this feeling? Yes, in other words, when did you last tell that person you love them. Maybe with some of the people on your list the answer to that will be a few minutes ago, but for some, I bet the answer might be a few days, or weeks, or months, or even years ago…..? Well, how about doing it this week? How about just telling the people you love that you love them? Raise the level of loving awareness in the world!


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The other day there as I walked to the station, I noticed Stirling Castle hovering above mist.

I just liked it……..

Then I thought……how attractive this view is because it is misty, rather than clear!

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Yesterday was the Spring Equinox, the day when there is an equal balance of day and night….for the next few months, there will be more light in every 24 hours.

I love seeing the appearance of the tree blossoms at this time of year. It feels like a time of new beginnings. So, maybe this isn’t a bad time to reflect on what you’d like to begin. What would you like to start? What journey would you like to begin?

It’s Nature’s time to blossom, and you are part of Nature, so how do you hope to blossom this Spring?


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