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October 2006
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December 2006

Morning meditation - To know or not to know

Is it better to know or not to know? Is ignorance really bliss or the path to suffering? Why would we not want to call a spade a spade, take the bull by the horns, and deal with the harsh and sometimes shameful realities which confront us?

Fear. It is fear that makes us hide, makes us avoid, makes us deny, stubbornly insist that our version of the truth is correct in the face of contradictory evidence.

What helps us overcome our fears is knowledge, knowing the truth, examining the evidence, and coming to terms with the ideas and facts that threaten our fragile grasp on our cherished beliefs. The first step on a spiritual path is doubt. Until we can doubt we are stuck in conformity, stuck in orthodoxy, enabling and reinforcing the status quo who have vested interests in their version of the truth whether accurate and appropriate or not.

Inquisitiveness, passion to understand, the desire for knowledge and wisdom is the spiritual
path which, as Scott Peck says in the title of his famous book "The Road Less Traveled". Jesus says in Matthew 7:13 "You can enter God’s Kingdom only through the narrow gate. The highway to hell is broad, and its gate is wide for the many who choose that way."

Or to paraphrase Hamlet, "To know, or not to know, that is the question." The biggest reward of being honest with oneself and others is serenity. You will sleep better not having to worry about being found out. You are in serious trouble when your biggest fear is the fear of the truth.


I was getting a lot of spam on my blog and so I had set my blog to only moderated comments. However, Typepad has now provided an authenticated feature so I am allowing direct comments again. If you are so inclined please leave your comments. Thanks.

Morning meditation - The miraculous gift of consciousness

"This too shall pass away."

All things pass away even tough rock; witness the Grand Canyon. The works of humans certainly pass away and all of life is impermanent. Things are always in flux. Nothing lasts forever. Creation rises and falls, it waxes and wanes, like the tide of the ocean it comes in and goes out. What is born will die; what is created or formed will decompose and disintegrate.

What is to be made of the impermanence of things, of life?

As Kurt Vonnegut said our consciousness is a pinhole through which we view the awesome wonder of life. Consciousness is a miraculous gift with which we get to participate in creation. Some would say that ignorance is bliss, it is better not to know, not to be aware, but I think awareness, consciousness is a taste of God's grace, God's love for us. Enjoy it while you can.

Morning meditation - Being one with everything

There are many ways of experiencing life. In our Western Civilization which is based on Aristotelian logic we want things to be rational and logical. We tend to accumulate knowledge by analyzing things in a reductionistic and linear way. This approach has worked very well to advance science and increase the knowledge of our physical universe.

However, we also are aware that the whole is never simply the sum of its parts. Systems have a life of their own apart from their components, and so, people who are sophisticated, are aware of patterns and sequences, and these patterns and sequences often repeat. Systems have equilibrium and stability, and when disturbed they move into disequilibrium and instability, and people participating in those systems experience distress and crisis.

Spirituality has to do with an appreciation of the systems quality of life, that each thing is made up of a group of smaller things, and the thing itself is part of a larger whole. This nesting quality, Ken Wilbur calls "holons".

Christians refer to the Body Of Christ as all the people in Christian Fellowship, and in Buddhism they talk about the Sangha which is the community which follows a teacher. As the poet John Donne said, "No man is an island."

The Buddhist monk said to the hot dog vendor, "Make me one with everything."

Quote of the day

"From the time I was a kid, I have never been able to understand attacks on the gay community. There are so many qualities that make up a human the time I get through with all the things that I really admire about people, what they do with their private parts is probably so low on the list that it is irrelevant."

Paul Newman

Using Nicotine Patch Before Quit Date Ups Success

Cigarettes Reuters HealthDay reported on November 19, 2006 on a study orginally reported in the journal, Nicotine and Tobacco Research, which found that starting nicotine patches two weeks before the cessation date increases the liklihood of people quitting smoking.

Giving nicotine patches a two-week "head start" more than doubles the chances they'll help smokers kick the habit, research finds.

A U.S. team found that by applying the patch 14 days before that last cigarette, users greatly boosted their long-term success rate.

The initial study was published earlier this year in the journal Nicotine and Tobacco Research, and a second trial has now replicated those findings, according to Jed E. Rose, medical research professor and director of Duke University's Center for Nicotine Cessation Research. He led the original study and is co-inventor of the nicotine patch.

One concern for some experts was that wearing a patch while still smoking might prove too toxic, or actually boost addiction by putting more nicotine in the body.

Not true, Rose said. "We have also found in the recent studies that the success rate is double even when smokers switched to a low nicotine or de-nicotinized cigarettes during the two week pre-cessation treatment period, and this procedure further allays any concerns about the possibility of nicotine overdose."

Link: MedlinePlus: Using Nicotine Patch Before Quit Date Ups Success.

Paxil Treats 'Compulsive Hoarding'

Compulsive_hoarding Reuters HealthDay reported on November 10, 2006 on a small study in the Journal of Psychiatric Research which found that Paxil may help patients with compulsive hoarding syndrome.

This syndrome has three main features: severe anxiety prevents patients from throwing out seemingly worthless items; they're prone to acquiring things, which sometimes leads them into buying sprees; and there's excessive clutter in their homes and work spaces, according to background information in a news release.

Indecisiveness, procrastination and disorganization are other symptoms of the syndrome.

Compulsive hoarding, which may affect up to 2 million people in the United States, is often found in patients with other diseases, including dementia, Alzheimer's, schizophrenia and anorexia. It's most often seen in patients with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). Researchers aren't certain whether compulsive hoarding is a subtype of OCD or a separate disorder.

The study, conducted by researchers at the University of California, San Diego, included 79 patients with OCD. Of those patients, 32 had compulsive hoarding syndrome.

The researchers found that both the hoarding and non-hoarding patients showed significant improvements in their symptoms when they were treated with Paxil, a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI).

Some of the patients I have known with this problem have had significant impairments in their functioning to the extent where they have been evicted from their apartments and their houses have been condemned by the municipality in which they live.

Link: MedlinePlus: Paxil Treats 'Compulsive Hoarding'.

Morning meditation - Caring for the body

Physicality is part of being human. Spirituality is made up of the physical, mental, emotional, psychological, and social. We like to describe our knowledge base in Social Work as the biopsychosocialspiritual model. Energy arises in the body and gives rise to its many manifestations usually positive and pleasurable but sometimes painful and distressful.

A good spiritual life appreciates the body and takes good care of it exercising good stewardship. In some religious traditions and practices asceticism and self mortifications of the flesh are a perversion of the spiritual impulse. Take good care of your body so that it can nourish your spirit.