Monday, May 25, 2009

Women docs at Esalen

Women in the circle at Esalen

Laughing, making bead necklaces,
Telling stories,
Sharing time and space:
Beautiful, beautiful world--
Green spring grasses
Trees full of new leaves,
Rushing stream below the bridge,
Cool air over the meditation room,
Jasmine on the hill path,
Sunlight on the baths,
Whales spouting in the bay,
In the silvery blue ocean.
Lettuce and spinach from the garden,
Poppies and marigolds,
And alyssum,
Cedars cleansing the air,
Shadows full of midnight stars,
Warm water steaming in the stone pools,
Sinking down into that goodness and warmth,
Looking out to sea forever--
Reborn, renewed, refreshed.

The circle widens,
As we occupy this sacred space,
Here and there a friendly face,
Someone who knows our secret sorrows,
And shares the strength of our vocation.

We desire to serve,
And also to be healed.

We also are wounded,
And now we can bandage those wounds for each other;
Balm in Gilead,
Warm sunlight on the stones,
Warm water holding us,
Girlish laughter in our hearts,
Songs sung with guitars and full throats;
”Happiness runs in a circular motion,
Thought is like a little boat upon the strand,”
Kindness springs from the full heart,
As we stand up together in the circle.

mn 09

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Staying home when sick

Dear friends,
The CDC is sending daily updates on the Flu epidemic, and they recommend we tell people to STAY HOME WHEN SICK, FOR 7 DAYS.
I love this advice. I love the whole reasonable approach to isolation, and urging people to take it on themselves to protect society at large from their germs, their potential threat. We have all these frenzied people multitasking, driving themselves crazy, and overwhelmed with fear and anxiety, and a bunch of talking heads who have no wisdom with tongues wagging on and on; and someone said most people watch 8 hours a day of television. I can't even fathom that. So, I love the simplicity and clarity of the advice, stay home.
I would like to add my favorite new advice. Get the most comfortable chair in your house and put it in a sunny spot in your living room, and sit in it for 10 minutes every morning. You can close your eyes, or drink a cup of tea, but just sit down in the sunshine, and breathe. If you are moved by this to try doing it for 10 minutes in the afternoon, even better. Drop your blood pressure and your cortisol. Take care of yourself. Be tender to yourself. Nurture yourself. Take a warm bath. Do not listen to any more thought-police and fearmongers.
Speaking of police, I just read that San Jose's police dept. is considering putting in place a program which already exists in SF and Palo Alto. They will turn the jail into a de facto drying out center, where all the drunks and drug addicts can clear up their heads, and then be released without charges. This will allow them to go on with their lives, and reduce the costs and criminal justice mess. (This only applies to the problem of drunkenness, not any other crime committed while intoxicated). It will protect the public safety, their primary goal. If they get a certain number of arrests for drunkenness in a 6-month period, they will be formally charged. So there is some built-in follow-up and encouragement to get sober.
The other joyful news I heard this week is that 18,000 people came to Madison Square Garden to hear Pete Seeger on his 90th birthday, sing "This land is your land". What a wonderful thing! God bless America!

Friday, May 8, 2009

10 points for Healthcare reform

Here are my ideas for health care reform, as globally and succinctly as I can put them. Since this is a time when the "masters of systems analysis are designing how it is going to look, I thought I would throw my two cents'worth out there, and if you agree, please send your thoughts on to your congressional representatives. I personally believe Single Payer would be the cheapest for the patients, as the overhead is forcibly lower, but it may not be possible, so point 4 is to cover the alternative of having to work with insurers.

1. Public health needs to be important again, and needs to have a coherent national, state and county infrastructure capable of handling natural disasters, and pandemic flu, as well as treating the 20% of population below poverty line. I also believe all illegal immigrants should be covered, but we also need to close the borders and have comprehensive immigration reform.

2. "actuarially sound"-- no lopsided, uncovered areas. Also mental health needs to be covered, as part of total health care. Total population data for risk “pools”.

3. "Compare apples to apples" in policies, and basic health needs need to be covered; chronic pain and the needs of the dying for hospice should be covered for everyone.

4. 15% profit limit for all insurance companies.

5. National tort reform, as in MICRA in California, which will also save states billions. Also all docs can compete for jobs without the hidden overhead. All congenital illnesses to be covered by a health care pool so people don't sue for cerebral palsy which is no one's fault.

6. Everyone needs to have a credit card with their data and coverage on it, to present for billing and in emergencies, will get vital info quickly to admitting hospitals.

7. National bargaining power for Medicare for pharmaceuticals and medical equipment.

8. Financial coverage for FDA, NIH, medical schools and nursing schools, and research institutes.

9. Consider Federal Reserve Board of Health to distribute federal dollars over the "pie"-- all CMS, MEDICAID, and indigent and public health, docs, hospitals, research, and pharmaceuticals; and to decide what should be in the "basic healthcare package". This body would be like the federal reserve board for money-- it would be buffered from the politicians, and also from the executive branch, and yet they will have to decide what proportion each of the competing interests should get, of the limited "pie". This body could thus respond in emergencies by increasing one side of the budget if needed.

10. A consistent cost of living increase allowance for physicians, so we are not paid artificially low rates in comparison with every other business in the USA.

PS. We desperately need more nursing schools, and coherent structures of nursing schools and standards. It would be great if local community colleges were given the mandate to fill that need, and ability to provide more nurses to local hospitals and generate jobs in local communities.

Thanks for listening!

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Curiosity, faith and scientific method


"Experiment, make it your motto day and night,
experiment, and it will lead you to the light;
if this advice you'll only employ,
the future will offer you infinite joy and merriment,
and you'll see."
(from the song by Steven Sondheim)

A valuable point to be made is that uncertainty and inquiry, and
willingness to live with curiosity, are the basis for the modern
mind, the scientific enterprise. I would say that some of us lean
toward the "one" more than the "many," but we have in us the
willingness to stay with curiosity. Most of the people I have known who
are what I think you might describe as "religious" are not really mystically
enlightened. They are simply yearning; and leaning on the tradition
and insights which have been given historically by the few mystics and
brilliant people who have existed. And yet, there are cumulative
experiences of meaning, in medicine, as well as in other areas of our
I think we are working on many different levels all the time, and
that peace is every step. The main thing is the intentionality. If we
intend to be healers and peacemakers, we lend ourselves to the "higher
power". We could call that bending ourselves to God's will. On any
given day, we have many little tasks, and sometimes a big one, and all
these things add up in a life; so that if we keep trying, if we miss
the boat on one task or moment, we can become recollected and clear
and humbly offer ourselves to God's will in the next moment. Ongoing
willingness is the needed self-corrective, for growth.
Today I was swimming in the big pool for my back. It is so interesting
being in water, and being able to feel the water around my body, and
think about where the edges of "me" vs. the water are. And how to
submerge ourselves into God's plans. What I think an agnostic mind
would say about that, is that we need to stay curious, not feel like we
are "there" in some defined way. And being curious is a good way to be
able to find things out which are new, beyond the horizon of the "known";
and to continue to be creative, and make new things happen.
It is very much to give oneself to process, not to something static.
So I appreciate the innate agnosticism of the scientific mind. But
also I appreciate the mystery of loving and being loved. And I am very
interested to see and learn about how others approach and witness to
what they call "the higher power". I am also partial to the God of
coffee and doughnuts, especially when it comes with the kind of
meeting where people are trying to talk about what matters to them.
And I appreciate the goodwill which helps us move beyond statements we
resent; when we see that the person speaking did not intend to hurt or
dishonor us. I appreciate that we are still here, trying to discuss
the issue in a civilized way. I salute you; and hope that somehow,
our microcosmic experience of discussing this without burning people
at the stake or chopping heads off, will bring the "hundredth monkey"
to the international debate so full of hatred and intolerance and
killing. It seems to me possible that the "mulch" of our society may
help, along with the scientific mindset, to bring a new meta-physical
vocabulary to the issue. Which actually could be a great help toward
learning to live in peace. We could make room for each other to exist,
and continue to try to reduce our frictions and conflicts.