Wednesday, October 18, 2017

You Are What You Think


Descartes said "I think, therefore I am."  “I thinktherefore I am ” was the end of the search Descartes conducted for a statement that could not be doubted. He found that he could not doubt that he himself existed, as he was the one doing the doubting in the first place. In Latin (the language in which Descartes wrote), the phrase is “Cogito, ergo sum.” [Google search]

We are thinking beings. Our thoughts are very powerful. Never doubt that!

Your thoughts can bring things into being, like thinking about a favorite food can make you hungry, sometimes even salivate. Or you can think about a painful memory and after a while you have the same emotions that you had when it happened.

There is a saying "If you think you can or you think you can't, you'e right." In other words, you can set yourself up for winning or losing by what you think. Athletes know that thinking about performing well helps them play/do better. Many teams use visualizations in training to help them do their best, even make their best better.

So how does that work for the rest of us? I've been thinking about this since writing Sunday's blog [Oct.15, 2017]. We have so much negativity thrust in front of us that it is little wonder that so many of us are feeling negative about not only our present but also our future. When we think about all the awful things that are happening it is easy to flow in that direction and expect that we are powerless to change anything.

But the reality is that we are better than what we see in the media. There is more good than bad. We just have to open our eyes to it.


One shooter destroys so many lives in Las Vegas. And yet hundreds of people pitched in to help that night and beyond. People lined up in the wee hours of the morning to donate blood. By-standers ran to help get the wounded to hospitals. One many even stole a truck from a nearby parking lot to haul injured people to the hospital, making more than one trip. [He later return the truck.] 

Hateful rhetoric is spewed on the media about minorities, while hundreds of people reach out to help the very people that have been treated so badly. Protesters send the message that the wrongs that are committed are not acceptable.

We are better, as individuals and as a nation, when we think good thoughts, do good  things. Look for the good around you. Be the positive that someone else needs to see.


Sunday, October 15, 2017

What Is America?


So America is in the midst of change, in many ways. But what IS America at the core? Who are we?
Are we what other countries see? Are we the image of America that is in the media?

Someone told me "Trump is America." I objected strongly that even though many think he represents us, one person doesn't define America. We are more than any president and definitely more than this one.

But are we, and can we fix what we see is wrong? Will we? Will we come together as a nation and work for equality?


We have income inequality, racial inequality, gender inequality, education inequality. Yes. All of that. So is that what America is, inequality? That certainly is part of who we are.

And sometimes we let those inequalities divide us. Even though that is what we see the most of in the media, it isn't really what I experience day to day. The people I know and come in contact with are working for change to a more positive, more balanced, more equal country.

We aren't dividers. We come together to help in times of disaster and tragedy. I see people from all walks of life volunteering, donating, creating healing, building relationships across the inequities. This is the America that I know and believe in.

I believe that we will come together to shape a better, more compassionate, more dedicated government that cares about serving the people more than about party loyalty. I think that we will create political parties that learn to work together for the common good.

I know that won't happen quickly. Large ships don't make tight turns. And the Ship of State will turn slowly. But change is happening, all the time. We mustn't devalue the incremental changes that are happening at the grass roots level.

Just look at the marches on Washington. Look at how many people have been energized and motivated to run for office to make changes at every level, local, State, Federal.

More than ever Americans are waking up to the challenge of improving who we are and who we want to become.

What do you want to change and what will you do to help make that happen? Want to change how campaigns are funded? You might want to check out the video below.


Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Is Loneliness at the Root of Today's Problems?



On NPR the other day I heard a doctor discuss the research into the relationship of loneliness and illness, both physical and mental illness, how loneliness changes body chemistry. It was enlightening,

He referred to loneliness and a multitude of physical illness like heart disease, hbp, stroke, and others. He also talked about the relationship of loneliness and mental illnesses like depression, substance abuse/dependence, and even some psychiatric diagnoses.

He went on to discuss the relationship of loneliness and violent behaviors.

Wow.

And it all made good sense. Loneliness can make people more fearful. Fear can easily lead to anger and acting out behaviors. And it can also lead to withdrawal, depression, low self-esteem. All of these things support the problems we are dealing with as a nation today.

And guess what? Loneliness is easy to treat! We only need to reach out to our neighbors, friends, family, even strangers, to create connection. There is much we can do to reach out to those who are less able to reach out. Don't wait for the lonely to find you. Make contact with those you know who might be experiencing loneliness.

Now, I admit I'm not very good at that. I'm VERY introverted and don't tend to make friends easily. But I know now that I need to work at that to help make the world better, not just to benefit myself.

Some ways to develop this can be as simple as making eye contact with people you come in contact with, people you pass on the street, service people, cashiers, etc. Greet folks with a smile and a "Good Morning/Afternoon/Evening."

Whenever it is appropriate, reach out a hand to touch a shoulder or forearm, shake hands. If it is someone you know, give them a quick hug. [Always get permission to hug. Abuse victims can be re-traumatized by unwanted touch.]

Even small talk can build relationships over time. Find some excuse to ask your neighbor a question, create a conversation. Drop off a plate of cookies or something, just because. You don't have to wait for the Holidays.

If you attend worship services, don't rush to be the first one out the door. Linger a bit to greet other worshipers. Attend social events with your faith community and get to know other folks.

Make an effort to contact/get to know people who live alone, especially those with disabilities that make it difficult to leave the house. Imagine being housebound and alone. Take them a little something - a magazine they might enjoy, a bit of baked goods if they are not diabetic, a book of word and number puzzles, etc. But most of all, stay a few minutes to chat. Brighten their day.

Get to know people you think may be feeling intimidated or threatened by someone. Become an ally. Let them know you are there for them if they need something or someone.

Each of us can change the world of someone who is experiencing loneliness. And the statistics they quoted said that 70% of Americans reported they experience loneliness.

Imagine if we could help people be healthier and happier simply by being there for and with them! Help people feel heard, seen, and valued.

Reach out. America needs you! The world needs you! You need you!



Sunday, October 8, 2017

How To Stop Bullying Before It Begins


Bullying does not have to be the problem that it has become. The way to prevent bullying to to raise children to be kind.

Children see a lot of unkind behavior and can come to believe that it is o.k. or even "cool" to be unkind. But as parents, teachers, and anyone in a child's life we have to constantly point out how unkind behavior is not o.k. We have to model kindness and to call out bullying and meanness. 

Here's a video about parenting kids to be kind and to not be bullies.





Whenever you see unkind behavior point out to the child that it is not o.k. Remind them that they want to be the best person they can be. And being a bully or being unkind to others is not the person they want to become.

Most importantly, we must model kindness. When children see adults' behavior they think it is o.k. and try to emulate those behaviors. So be kind to everyone.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Teach Love, Not Hate

Love Is an Action Verb




Practice teaching love by what you say and what you do. Today is a good day to start.



Thanks YouTube for these videos "Teach Love, Not Hate"  and "Crazy J- Spread Love Not Hate Music Video.


Sunday, October 1, 2017

It's Not Fair!



Recently I read a book about fat phobia. [I've been fat most of my life.] And there is a paragraph that I think would be good for everyone as we try to make the world a better place.

"And I know opportunity isn't equal. That life isn't fair, and sometimes it's not even remotely kind. I know that sometimes gigantic barriers get in the way of that perfect dream we see in our future. But one thing that will never change in this world of ours is the fact that we need and deserve all the happiness, success, love, kindness, and joy we can get our hands on. So don't let your self-doubt stop you; whatever you want . . . you already deserve it"  Jes Baker, Things no One Will Tell Fat Girls, A Handbook for Unapologetic Living.
While being fat, or loving someone who is, may not be part of your life history, this book has wisdom for everyone. And the above paragraph in particular speaks to us all.

My kids used to complain "It's not fair!" and my response has always been, "Life is not fair. And whoever told you it was lied." It is important to recognize that things happen that get in the way of our dreams and goals. That is just life. But we can be certain that each person deserves happiness, success, love, kindness and joy. And each can create that within themselves.

And with that certainty we can persevere toward our goals.  Not only that, but we can acknowledge that others also deserve to be happy and treated with kindness. We can create a little fairness by being kind to everyone!

So remind yourself today that you deserve to be kind to yourself and to others. Make that your goal for the day!

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

What Can I Say?


I'm supposed to publish a post today. And I don't know what to say. There is so much going on that is disturbing and this blog is supposed to help folks make the world better. Where to start?

The  most frequent thread has been kindness. Actively being kind to others and one's self does make the world better where you are. And we really must begin where we are. 

And then what? Spread the kindness out a little farther. Be kind to strangers, to people you see but don't often interact with, to people who seem to be having a hard day, to people who are negative or angry, to people you don't usually make eye contact with, to authority figures, to everyone.

And always be kind to yourself. Stop negative self-talk and give yourself appreciation when you do something right and good. Treat yourself gently. Smile more. Laugh more. Play more.

And then identify a cause or two that you feel passionate about and work for that cause. Raise awareness of the need. Enlist others to help. Get involved. 

These are things that each of us can do personally to make our own world better. And encouraging others to do the same make more "worlds" better.  Be the pebble in the pond.


Sunday, September 24, 2017

The World Really Is Getting Better

Bill Gates states that instead of the world falling apart, it is really getting better.


Rather than sink into despair about what we see around us, we need to look at the big picture and keep the good things going. We can keep getting better.

Help spread the word.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

What Do You Think? Change the Your Thoughts and Change the World



Whether we pay attention to our thoughts or not, they are running all the time. Much of the time we act without thinking, at least consciously . Yet our thoughts are VERY powerful. They determine who we are, what we do, how we feel.

Philosopher Rene Descartes, the french philosopher and mathematician, i n his Discourse on the Method  stated "I think, therefore I am." It is said to mean that thinking is the one thing that cannot be faked. It is the one way that individuals know they exist.

So thinking is the core of our being. The good news is that we can change our thoughts. We can direct our thoughts. They are not something that is separate from us. And if we are to change our behavior and our feelings we will need to identify the thoughts that create them and change those thoughts.

Thus if we are to change the world we will need to start with our own thoughts and take control of them, confront them, change them if they don't impact the world the way we want them to. We can't reduce the hatred in the world if we don't confront any of that hatred that exists in our thoughts. And we can't do that if we don't pay attention to our thoughts.

For me it is an ongoing program of confronting the thoughts that arise, seemingly unbidden at times, that may come from fear or hate or misinformation. As a white woman I have to acknowledge and confront my immediate fearful response to young black men walking toward me on the street. I have to acknowledge that it is racist and not based on reality.  It is important that my response is based on what is really happening rather than what I fear might happen, based on years of racist media fear-mongering.

It is also important that I pay attention to other thoughts that come up unbidden. When I see a street person panhandling, what do I think and how does that determine my behavior? When I hear about people who have been homeless for months or years, do I think of them as lazy or unemployable when I don't know anything about their life?

I used to think that if a homeless person has a cellphone they must not really need help. What I didn't take into consideration is that it is impossible to apply for jobs if you don't have a mailing address and access to a phone! And most jobs require that you have your own transportation.

And what we think is greatly determined by what we are told until we discover otherwise for ourselves. We hear things repeated over and over by the media or by the people we surround ourselves with and those things take on the weight of "truth".  It is so very easy to believe what we are told, especially if it excuses us from putting any effort into learning more.

What we feel is a result of what we think and believe about events in our lives. If we think/believe that something is dangerous we will feel afraid. For instance, if you believe hungry lions are dangerous you will fear them. Makes sense, right? But what if there is a glass barrier between you and the lion? Is it still a dangerous situation?

I used to do an exercise with inmate in a male prison institution that was a challenge for them to change their harmful or unproductive belief systems. One example was when I ask for what one guy believed about women. "Women are stupid", he said. I ask him some questions that challenged that belief:

All women?"Yes," he said.
 How many women have you met? "Hundreds," he said.
 How many women exist in the world? "Probably millions, he responded.
 So really it is all the women you have met are stupid, right? " Well, yes," he said
Where did you meet these women? " In bars,"  he said.
 So all women you met in bars in stupid, is that it? " Yes,"  he agreed.
 So what if you began to meet women in other places, might there be women who aren't stupid? 
 He had to agree.

With that he began to challenge his belief that all women are stupid. We can do the same thing with beliefs that keep us in harmful, hurtful, or unproductive situation.

So have you been thinking things like "All Republicans are hateful," "All Trump voters are stupid,"
 "All white people are racist," All blacks are less than or are lazy or are stupid or whatever", " All immigrants are illegal freeloaders" or any of the other negative thoughts that support hatred, fear, and violence. Challenge those beliefs and move beyond them.

Pay attention to what you think and keep confronting those thoughts that do not make the world a better place.








Sunday, September 17, 2017

The Racist in Me?



If we are truly wanting to eliminate hate speech and racism we need to start in our own attitudes. This is a great article (used with permission) to help us do that:

In the face of the white supremacist violence and President Trump’s reaction to it, fear, anger, and condemnation of others comes naturally to me. What is more difficult—perhaps for many white people like me—is a willingness to examine the extent to which my daily thoughts and behaviors support the racism I adamantly oppose—in others.
Yes, I’ll go on a protest march. Yes, I’ll attend anti-oppression training. I’ll write to politicians. I'll take to my social networks to show my solidarity with all the other people who want desperately to root out racism—in others.
To what extent am I willing to examine those parts of myself that are like the people I feel so angry toward? Here’s why I think that’s important: What racism I can find close to home and within myself—as scared as I am to see it—is what I have the most power to root out straight away.
This is why I was so intrigued by a Facebook post from the black, queer Buddhist teacher and co-author of Radical Dharma: Talking Race, Love, and Liberation. Lama Rod Owens writes:
“It seems like if we are really interested in ending white supremacy, white people should focus more on loving themselves instead of trying to love me. The violence emerges from the ways self-shame and apathy are bypassed in attempts to use love towards me as an argument trying to convince me that you are not ‘that kind of white person.’ As long as you cannot face yourself and love even those ugly parts, you are indeed that kind of white person, and I will be left with the work of trying to love what you cannot bear to witness.”
So what might be an ugly part of myself that Lama Rod suggests I should love? What do I need to see in myself to avoid violence emerging?
As it happens, I read Owens’ post while backpacking with my 12-year-old daughter in Thailand. One day, we were traveling in a van with other tourists of various nationalities, including a middle-aged Indian husband and wife. We had conversed a fair amount during the day and become quite friendly.
A lifetime of living as a white man in a white-privileged world has left me with occasional unwanted ugliness.
After a stop, when we were all getting back in the van, the husband took the seat my daughter had been sitting in, on the front bench. This worried me because Bella gets carsick easily, especially if she can’t see out the windshield. I felt irritated with the man, but what was more uncomfortable for me was the rising “ugly part” of myself, as Owens calls it. I called the Indian man “entitled” in my head. I had made up a whole, completely unverified story about how he had worked his way out of poverty and had become rich enough to travel and now expected to be allowed to take whatever seat he wanted.
But, of course, I knew this story was based on nothing but introjected stereotypes based on Indian ethnicity and nationality. There was no evidence for the story, nor do I believe such a story would have arisen had he been a white European.
Even more uncomfortable was to see in myself that this “entitlement”—that I imagined probably clashed with another person’s entitlement—was my own. I realized that my life history and experience—countless occasions of getting exactly the seat I wanted—made me feel, on some level, that it was my right for Bella to get the front seat if she needed it.
I’m not saying that my stereotypes and the so-called clash of entitlements are foundational to me or my value system, or even more than passing ideas in my stream of consciousness. I am saying that a lifetime of living as a white man in a white-privileged world has left me with occasional unwanted ugliness.
White people don’t tend to do much about racism when it is comfortably out of sight.
Some of my anger and frustration at the recent actions of white supremacists come from having to acknowledge the parts of me that remain unloved, as Lama Rod Owens would put it.
This is part of why—and it’s important to acknowledge—white people don’t tend to do much about racism when it is comfortably out of sight. Now we have stopped being comfortable, as white supremacists force us to look at them and their attitudes.
So I must look at myself.
If I leave my ugly parts unloved and unseen, if I refuse to examine the white supremacist within me, I have no way of understanding the white supremacists around me. For example, my own racist moment with my Indian friend was actually motivated by genuine concern for my daughter, perverted by conditioned and introjected racism.
Can that suggest something about where the white supremacists are coming from? Perhaps some of their ugly behavior too comes from concern for loved ones perverted by years of trauma and lifetimes of societally conditioned racism. Of course, I condemn their actions. But a little understanding and love for myself—as a flawed white person—and a little for the people—not the behavior—might allow for some space to reduce hatred.
Meanwhile, I, and lots of progressive white people like me, are left, as Owens says, to learn to love what we cannot bear to witness within ourselves.

Colin Beavan wrote this article for YES! Magazine. Colin helps people and organizations to live and operate in ways that have a meaningful impact on the world. His most recent book is “How To Be Alive,” and he blogs at ColinBeavan.com.  Besides YES! Magazine, his articles have appeared in Esquire, Atlantic, and the New York Times. He lives in Brooklyn, New York. Colin is leading a retreat, “Fierce Compassion: Where Activism Meets Spirituality,” with Lama Willa Miller at the Garrison Institute in September. Find out more here.

It isn't easy to explore the darkness in ourselves. Confronting our own internalized racism will change us. And change can be uncomfortable. But I challenge you to begin the search for your own "ugly" thoughts and behaviors.



Wednesday, September 13, 2017

What Fear Is Holding You Back?


What would you do if you weren't afraid? Would you stand up for someone being abused? Would you march in protest? Would you run for office? Would you change careers? Would you reach out to homeless people you see on the street? Would you mediate conflicts?

What would you do? Listen to Nancy Sathre-Vogel talk about how fear keeps us from doing things we think we should or we want to do.



What WILL you do? How will you confront your fear?

Sunday, September 10, 2017

It Past Time that We Abolish Islamophobia

What if your family had been destroyed by people hating something about them that makes them a little different. This is what is happening to Americans. It must stop. But do we hear people decrying it?

Take a few minutes to learn more about the effects of this kind of hate. Muslims are not the only group who is treated this way. Hispanic, GLBT, black, Asian, the list goes on.


What minority are you a part of. What have you ever done to stand up for a minority, a person being treated as "less than"?

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Eleven Minutes to Dealing With Hate Speech


Speech is powerful. It can be used for good or for ill. Speech that fuels hate and incites violence is what is so dangerous today.


In this lecture they use the experience in Iran to create hate of Ba'hi religion. It is powered by government.

There are many parallels to what is happening here and now. It is important that we understand how this works and how we might resist it.

Sunday, September 3, 2017

A Labor of Love for Labor Day



Labor Day originated in 1894 to honor and celebrate the contribution of America's labor force to the nation's social and economic achievements.

These days it is mostly regarded as an excuse to celebrate the end of summer. Little attention is given to the original purpose. Yet we really should recognize the American worker as the backbone of our nation.

Americans are now working at jobs for more hours per week with fewer "perks" than most "advanced" nations. More families are two-income families, which means work at home and work on a job create a double burden for men women/men, especially when there are children in the family.

Those of us with that lifestyle are deserving of respect and praise. It isn't easy these days to make ends meet, even with two paychecks. I know a family whose male parent works full time in a job that takes him away from home, often for days at a time, and is actively involved in the work of his church projects. The female parent has two part-time jobs, two children, a house with no housekeeping help, takes an active role in her children's education and in their church life. They are constantly busy, all of them. The children are involved in school activities beyond their classes and homework. The children are also active in community activities. There are many, many families as busy as this.

This lifestyle keeps our country going.. Imagine if people didn't do jobs that keep things going for the country, community; if private citizens didn't volunteer to help provide assistance to others; if children had no guidance and leadership from involved adults.

This is what we commemorate with Labor Day - America's labor force in their jobs, their communities, and their homes.

Celebrate Labor Day this year with appreciation for all those who labor. Do a kindness for someone who has to work this weekend!

For a brief history of Labor Day go to https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-zAAgSRBmMI


Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Hate: What Is It Doing to Your Life? To Mine?



Been hearing a lot about hate these days. And seeing a lot of hate behavior. I'm seventy-five years old and I've never seen or heard so much hate.

That doesn't mean hate wasn't busy messing up the world before now. It has. But now it is in my living room, on my computer screen, in my newspapers, almost anywhere I look there is hate.

People with guns parading on the streets of America proclaiming hate is just not what I ever though would happen here.

I know that bigotry and hate are nothing new. But it now seems to have taken on a life of its own and begun to wash over everything. People who hate have been embolden to shout their hate openly, without masks, and wearing weapons.

If you are filled with hate for someone or some thing, it will just eat you alive. It will gobble up your energy and kill your spirit. You will only be able to see things through the window of your hate.

 It would be easy to take on the hate of others, to hate them back. Hating the haters only makes you one of them. You deserve better than that. And the people in your life deserve better than that.

"Hate is: Judgement Directing Anger" [https://personaltao.com/teachings/healing/resolving-feelings-of-hate/] This is an insightful way to examine hate. Anger is at the bottom of hate. And judgement focuses it in the direction of whom or that which we judge.

I'm using "judgement" in the Biblical sense here. We all have to make judgments every day about who or what to trust, of course. But in the sense of judging whether a person is good or evil is a different kind of judgement. When we take on the burden of determining a person's spirit we take on the burden of being a God, and that is indeed a heavy burden.

I believe that people can do evil things. I worked in prisons for nearly twenty years. I worked with men who had done very evil things. But I think I only met two men that seemed to embody evil. And as a therapist there was little I could do to change that. Only spiritual healing can rid evil from a person's soul.

So exploring hate can begin with exploring or examining the anger. Anger is a secondary emotion that comes from fear or pain. It is why you want to curse when you hit your thumb with the hammer. It is why you become angry when you fear losing something important to you. Anger can be used constructively, of course. But hate cannot. Hate only destroys.

And when I see people expressing hate I realize that they are angry. They are angry about perceived loss. They are angry about their suffering. They are afraid.

It seems to me that the best way for us to diminish hate is to address the needs of those folks. They are afraid. They are afraid of losing their power or status or security or identity. They need our compassion. Like children who are angry and afraid they need comfort and courage to confront the changes they are experiencing.  When you meet a child's tantrum with aggression things get worse instead of better. When you discover what the child is afraid of you can better deal with the anger.

Now that doesn't mean we should not call out those who are acting in destructive ways. Of course their behaviors must have natural and reasonable consequences. But it means that we don't have to see them through the lens of hate. And our lives don't have to be destroyed by us taking on their hate.

We are in a very difficult time. We need to keep ourselves safe while we resist the forces against us. We need to keep our inner selves free of hate. And we need to use our anger to resist without violence. Only then can we win over hate.


Sunday, August 27, 2017

So, You Want to Change the World



The world isn't what you think it should be. Heck, your country, your community, your life isn't what you think it should be. 

And I tell you you can make a positive difference, you can change the world. And you're thinking, "Sure. You're dreaming."

Here is hope. You can do it.


What will you give? Think hard. What WILL you give?

Would you share in the comments what you will do?

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Overcoming Hate with Kindness

The little child shall lead us. Here's a video of kids showing us how to fight by killing them with kindness.

https://youtu.be/Dnvatzf8Gj4

Hope you will watch and it will give you ideas of how to deal with the world when it is a nasty place.


Sunday, August 20, 2017

The Doctor in Your Pocket


So you go to the doctor's office for an annual exam. You wait half an hour to be seen. Then you sit in the exam room until the doctor gets to you. The doctor breezes in and starts asking questions while she writes your answers into her laptop computer, hardly making eye contact. She looks in your nose, mouth and ears, listens to your heart, takes your blood pressure, etc. And since there are no abnormalities she's out of the room in eight to ten minutes and sends you to a lab for blood work, standard procedure. You wait for the lab results for a week or so and you only get a note from your doctor that they were all in the normal range. Then you and/or your insurance company are billed for several hundred dollars.

Now, what if you only needed the doctor when you have a problem. Instead of going to the doctor's office for an annual exam you have your vitals checked by your cell phone with results to you and your doctor in a matter of minutes. The doctor's office, or a data bank, can track any changes. If you aren't feeling great you can see a nurse practitioner or medical tech, no appointment needed, who has a hand-held scanner that can x-ray, MRI, CT, or ultrasound, if needed, and has another handheld that checks your urine and blood. (You could have those apps on your cell phone if you want, but who wants to use a phone that has body fluids on it!), The results are back within minutes and the interpretations are right there for you to see. The results also go to your doctor and if you need to be examined physically for some reason he/she will make an appointment. But you can be SEEN by the doctor via Skype. Not only is this making medical care more accessible, but it will also ultimately lower costs.

The technology is available now. So why isn't it being used? Think about it. If your section of the labor force was to be reduced by technology, you'd resist, right? Well doctors are mostly stuck in the old way of practicing medicine, the way it has been practiced for hundreds of years. And since the majority of doctors now practicing are over fifty years of age, they are slow to warm to the technology. But a couple of the largest teaching hospitals in our country are using the handhelds with new doctors, so it won't be so long until it is more commonplace to have a doctor in your pocket.

There are already apps available for smartphones that monitor blood sugar, look into your nose, throat, and ears, and track other symptoms. This engages individuals into their healthcare at a greater degree and makes for better compliance to medication and treatment. And the wearable data collectors like FitBit can provide a much wider window of information than that of the monitor of vitals by a doctor visit. They monitor pulse, sleep, physical activity and can monitor blood pressure as well. If you connect that to your medical professional they could get an overall picture of your level of functioning.

Why is that better? Well, if your blood pressure is only high on Monday morning and your doctor appointment is Tuesday afternoon, the doctor - and you - will not know that you have stress related HBP. You could have a stroke or heart attack without warning. Or if your blood isn't tested during a time when something is off you'll never know. You can't actually live at the doctor's office or lab!

And research has shown that an individual's self report of symptoms is more accurate when reported to a computer than when reported to a human face to face. Psychiatrists are beginning to use Skype and computer contact to better track clients status. And it appears to work better with cases of depression especially.

Yes, we can have better, more accurate, and less expensive medical care when we engage patients in their care and when doctors have more data about their patient. That is already here with the use of electronic data collection. CPAP machines can transmit data about the quality of sleep and the efficacy of the individuals use. Electronic scales, blood pressure machines, and thermometers can transmit data via the telephone or wifi to monitor people like my mom, who had a heart condition and was house bound. She experienced that technology more than ten years ago. So imagine how useful it COULD be if it were common practice beyond the elderly.

The newest technologies are making it possible for people in areas of the world that have too few, or no, doctors to get medical care anywhere there is an internet/smartphone connection. They are even delivering medications or blood via drones where the terrain is too rough for usual transport. There are people in undeveloped countries that are getting better, more modern healthcare than those of us in the Western world because they are open to new things that work.

I've mentioned only some of the new developments and if you are interested in learning more specifics, I recommend the book I've taken this information from, as it goes into much more detail about all of this. It is eye-opening.  The Patient Will See You Now, the future of medicine is in your hands, by Eric Topol.

When your health care is truly in your hands, you will have more control over your own body's needs. Not only will your medical records be available at any time, but so will your healthcare. We can encourage the young medical professionals to keep up with all the new developments and compliment their practice with cutting edge technology. And we can stop worrying about a shortage of doctors in the future. We will need fewer doctors but we will need smarter doctors, doctors who can take the amazing amount of data available to make much better decisions about care.

And we will need bigger and better data collection that is secure. This will take time to develop but it is something that will happen. We are on our way to democratized healthcare. The future of medicine truly is in our hands.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Your Health Care Is Costing You Too Much!


Yep, we Americans are all paying too much for health care. According to Eric Topol in The Patient Will See You Now, the future of medicine is in your hands,  Some hospitals charge up to $1,200 for every $100 of their total costs. And the 100 most expensive hospitals charge 7.7 times their cost. For example, a single tablet of acetaminophen will at $1.50 to your bill, while you can buy a whole bottle of 100 pills will cost you $1.49.

The U.S. is the only country that doesn't control the cost of health care. In Spain a hip replacement is $7,731, while in the U.S. the average price is $40,364! Are you aware that the average uncomplicated pregnancy in the U.S cost $37,341! This is why medical tourism is so popular. People go out of the country to receive reasonable health care.

What other market would consumers have no idea what they are being charged or how much the insurance will pay until after the service? Why are we unable to shop for medical care the same way we shop for an automobile?

Hospitals, doctors, and labs bill uninsured individuals and insureres vastly different amounts for the same service. The charges are not based on costs but on whatever the market will bear. Almost all other developed countries' governments negotiate and regulate pricing. The powerful lobbying groups of all sectors of health care make sure that doesn't happen here. And we, like sheep, allow it to continue.

Research has identified six areas of waste that could bring down the cost of health care. They was five years ago. Little has been changed since. These areas of care are, Inefficiently delivered services, prices that are inflated, excess administrative costs, fraud, missed prevention opportunities, and Unnecessary services - the biggest wedge of the waste pie.

There are many widely used medications that have no research showing their efficacy. Many are widely advertised as better than older medications, even though there is no evidence to support that. Patients expect the newest drug, whether it is better or not. And because it is thought to be better, companies can get away with overcharging for it."More than 1 in 10 Americans takes an antidepressant and for women age forty to sixty, the rates is 1 in4. But studies have shown that more than 2 out of 3 of the patients taking those drugs do not fit the accepted criteria."*

And then there is the failure to use pharmacogenomics to determine what medication best fits the individual needing it. Pharmacogenomics is the use of your genetic markers to trace which meds work for which person. This is an exciting new field of research that is being practically ignored. Only a very few medications have been researched for the genomic or biomarker for predicting responsiveness to common conditions. Using this information could lead to a major turnaround in effective medical care. A recent look at cancer patients has shown this to be a very hopeful field of science. And it could make enormous changes if more common conditions were studies.

And then, of course, is the unchecked use of medical imaging - CT scans, MRI, ultrasounds, mammography. The use of scans in the U.S. dwarfs their use in an;y other country in the world. MRI and CT scans in the U.S. exceed $250 billion. On top of the financial costs, 3 to 5 percent of folks getting scans will get cancer because of the cumulative exposure to ionized radiation. How many of these scans are necessary?

Women have routinely been getting mammograms annually in the U.S. Yet most of these women are not high risk for cancer and are exposing themselves unnecessarily to increasingly high amounts of accumulated ionized radiation. And recent research has shown that frequent mammograms have not been shown to result in a lower rate of breast cancer. Other countries have even eliminated mammograms without evidence of an unexplained lump or other symptom. Yet, as long as our insurance pays for the scan, Americans do it "just in case." We are never told about the amount of radiation we are exposed to and how much we have accumulated over the years, even though there is research to support the fact that radiation causes cancers.

Many of these imaging centers cost millions to build and operate, so the cost to the consumer is high, especially when those costs are inflated when passed on. 

How many of us get annual physicals, even when we have no symptoms or history that would support the need for a physical? Other countries have recommended giving up annual physicals. The annual physical has become an American ritual, with more tests, more scans, more procedures and more operations. Is it any wonder that there is such a battle around health care? Someone is making a lot of money on our perceived need for all this. And most of us are unwilling to let go of that belief, especially our medical professionals who reinforce it. Doctors are still paternalistic gods who know what is best for our bodies, even when we know more about or own bodies than they.

This has been the history of health care in America for centuries. We own our bodies but not information about our bodies. We are convinced that we couldn't possibly understand the complexities of our own health. The future will change all that. In my next blog we'll look at the impact of the information age on our ownership of our healthcare.

*This blog is based on the book The Patient Will See You Now, the future of medicine is in your hands, by Eric Topol.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

The Future Medical Practice Is Here


Your smartphone is your door to your medical care.* We now have technology that will make going to the doctor less frequent and less expensive and far more convenient. Are you aware that in undeveloped countries doctors are few and far between? And medical tests are often out of the question because of lack of access. Yet technology is changing that.

For years technology has made it possible for doctors to see patients via teleconferencing/Skype. It's been used in the U.S. prisons when it isn't practical to take the prisoners to doctors or hospitals.They can now connect with clinics or nurses via the Smartphone anywhere there is wifi.

But technology has taken it way beyond that. They have developed apps that will test blood sugar and other blood tests, pulse, blood pressure, temperature, etc. And the results can be analyzed almost instantly with results to you and your doctor.

There are even apps that will test your genome type and screen for potential genetic disease. And recently I saw an article that explained an app that can change the genetic structure of a cell in order to cure certain cancers!

There are also algorithms that diagnose illnesses with greater accuracy than humans given the same data about the patient. "With demographic, physiologic, anatomic, biologic and environmental data about a particular individual can be used to define one's medical essence."*

And with the proliferation of wearable wireless sensors, like FitBit and others, physiologic data is collected and relayed like a smartphone. By way of electronic monitors Individuals can transmit information from their body to medical professionals [or medical data centers] to monitor heart rate, pacemaker activity, blood oxygen levels, weight changes, blood pressure, respiratory rate, galvanic skin response, eye pressure, blood glucose, brain waves, intracranial pressure, muscle movements, and many other metrics.

"The microphone of the smartphone can be used to quantify components of lung function and analyze one's voice to gauge mood or make the dignosis or Parkinson's disease or schizophrenia. One's breath can be digitized to measure a large number of compounds, such as nitric oxide or organic chemicals, which could enable smartphones to track lung function or diagnose certain cancers.  Beyond all those wearable and non invasive sensors, nanochips are being developed to be embedded in the bloodstream to monitor the appearance of tumor DNA, immune activation, or genomic signals indicative of a forthcoming heart attack or stroke."  It is used to track the progress of chemotherapy in shrinking/eliminating cancerous growths.

We've all seen technological advances in scans of the anatomy of individuals beyond Xray - MRI, CT, nuclear scanning, and ultrasound - that define one's anatomy without surgery. All these scans however rely on access to expensive hospital and clinic-based equipment. There is now an emerging use of pocket devices that obtain high-resolution ultrasounds or X-rays making assessment of individual's anatomy much easier, faster, and cheaper. A smartphone or some other small device can now perform the physical exam of the eyes, ears, neck vessels, heart, lungs, abdomen and fetus, and share share medical imaging that enables the patient to fully review his/her anatomy on a portable device. All this is already available.

So why are you still waiting weeks or months to see a specialist, waiting hours for your turn to see the doctor, paying outrageous amounts of money, to get vague explanations of what is happening in your body?  That's an easy one to answer.

While the technology is changing at breakneck speed, the medical profession is not. They are highly invested in the status quo. Why would they support advances that minimize their control over diagnosis and treatment? Why would they support development of technology that makes them less relevant? For them to change would mean a whole culture change in the field of medicine. While some places in the world are using these technologies where medical care is inaccessible, we in developed countries are being left behind. Hard to imagine that our medical care is less advanced than that of the more undeveloped parts of the world.

But change will not be held in check for long. As we become more aware of what is happening around the world we, as consumers, will demand better care. One reason the change will reach us is that it will be less expensive. Insurance will push for lower costs, as will we all.

We must take ownership of our medical information, as we have every right to our records and to information about diseases. We are smarter consumers now that we have access to the internet's vast body of information on illness and disease. And we have the power as a group to demand easier access and lower prices.

Together we can make lives better with better medical access in all countries in the world. With wifi access spreading everywhere, so then can medical care. The change is happening. Be part of it!
, by Eric Topol.

*The Patient Will See You Now, the future of medicine is in your hands, by Eric Topol

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Yes, Change Is Happening And You Are Part of It



The medical profession has changed slowly for centuries, and then a very rapid change has nearly left us in the dust. Scientists are finding causes and cures for illnesses that in the past were always fatal, even with treatment. Vaccines and medicines are making some illnesses obsolete.

For hundreds of years illness was thought to be caused by divine, or evil, spirits. The first "doctors" were priests or shamans, who could intercede for the person suffering with an illness. The most important figure in ancient Egyptian medicine was Imhotep, way back in 2600 BC, a high priest.  It wasn't until Hippocrates, considered the father of medicine, in ancient Greece that anyone described many diseases as due to natural circumstances rather than a supernatural force. ( The Patient Will See You Now, The future of Medicine is in Your Hands, by Eric Topol)

Hippocrates is considered the father of medicine and his philosophy shapes the medical culture to this day as paternalistic and somewhat secretive. He believed that the patient should not be told what treatment entailed and the science of medicine should be held as above the understanding of the common man. The Hippocratic Oath states that "the precepts and oral instruction and all the other learning of medicine be shared only with those who have taken an oath according to the medical law, but to no one else."

Eons later that same oath and philosophy has led to the culture of medicine that puts the patient in a subordinate role in his or her own healing. Doctors are still often treated like gods and, in turn, they treat patients like children by withholding information and making life and death decisions for the patient without the patient's input.

While the medical profession insists that they must be given respect, all to often the patient is not treated with respect. The patient does not have all the information available to them when they are told they must make decisions about possible treatments, making informed consent a misnomer. The patient is treated like a child when they ask for more information or when they are resistant to the doctor's treatment decisions.

An informed patient who insists on the doctor's respect is all to often labeled a "difficult patient" and shunted off to the side. When a patient is insistent the doctors label them difficult. That label in a patient's record can have longstanding consequences with any medical professional reading those notes.

Now, however, patients more and more often have access to information about illness and medicine that was never before available to the layperson. We can go online and find research results and reports about all sorts of illnesses. We can look up or symptoms and learn possibilities even before we see a doctor. We are more informed than ever before. And we are demanding medical professionals hear us and respect what we know about our own bodies.

And this is changing the culture of medicine. With the proliferation of smart phones we can have access to doctors, research, test results, and be part of the conversation about our health. As this trend grows medical professionals will be forced to change the way they treat patients. We will insist that be become Individual, Active Participants (IAPs) rather than patients. Because we know our bodies better than anyone else can, our input is vital. And with better information we can make better choices, we can have true informed consent.

Just think of that word "consent". What other profession demands its clients give consent to leave a relationship. But to leave a hospital without the doctor's consent is the same as being a defiant revolutionary! The doctor is assumed to have ownership over our lives when we agree to their treatment. When our decisions are made as a result of intimidation are they truly informed consent?

In the new medical culture the doctors will work for us as equal partners. Yes, the professional has more education and training in medicine. We don't dispute that. Yet they don't have the right to decide for us what we want to do about our health, unless we give up that right and go back to the paternalistic philosophy of Hippocrates.

The new generations of doctors will listen to and respect their patients as partners in their healthcare. I feel truly blessed to have a doctor like that now. My doctor knows that I am the expert on my body and what does or doesn't work for me. She listens and agrees to try what I think will work best. I get lab results with the values for each test given, not a rubber stamped "all tests were within the normal range" or a brief "good". When I have questions or concerns I am attended to.

But the changes in medicine are not stopping there. In the future of medicine our professionals will be more accessible than ever before, thanks to technology. More about that in my next post.

*The facts in this post come from the book The Patient Will See You Now by Eric Topol.




Sunday, August 6, 2017

Changes

Yes, the world  is changing. And the changes come more and more quickly. 

While is can be exciting it can also be stressful. Whether the changes are for our good or not, all change creates stress. So it is little wonder that so many of us are challenged by that stress.


Let's look at the positive sides of change as one way to minimize the negative effects of stress. In the next weeks I want to look at some of the changes and how we might better deal with them.


Get ready, because change will come no matter what we do.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

We Can Do Better


With so much of our energies focused on profit, the United States has fallen short on comparisons with other countries in other areas.
"The USA may still lead the world in GDP and rank highly in such stats as population and human development index, but its lag in other key categories is alarming. You’ve heard about the education gap, but did you know that U.S. students’ math scores are among the lowest in the developed world? Charles M. Blow and the New York Times put together this infographic comparing the U.S. to other countries by 9 key metrics: The U.S. comes in at “worst of the worst” in four categories and “worst” in two more, with zero “best” rankings."
https://www.themarysue.com/us-compared-to-other-countries/
Life is about so much more than money. We can do better. We can work together to create a better quality of life for ALL people in America. We can return to being the hope of the world.

But it won't be easy and it won't be quick. We have to support initiatives that build people up. We need to get behind improving our educational system by teaching kids how to think, how to reason, how to make good decisions. This isn't something learned by rote memory. I'm not even sure there are tests that can measure that. But we have at least one generation, probably more than one, that lacks these life skills.

Math and science are important. And just as important are creative arts. When people have basic knowledge and their creativity is encouraged they can create solutions to all kinds of problems.

We need to push for wage equality and food security. Families can survive, let alone thrive, on minimum wage and monthly trips to a food pantry. We must see that children are educated and able to work, yes. AND we need to be sure there are jobs for them and their parents to move into.

You are probably thinking that you can't do anything about any of this. But that is where you are wrong. We are the people who hold the keys. We can vote into office progressive people who will support these initiatives in our cities, states, and nation.

We are also the people who can support organizations that push for these improvements. We do that with donations, volunteering, sharing information, and letting those organizations know that we think they are doing important work.

It is easy to feel small and helpless. But when we do, we give up or personal power. We really can't afford to do that.

So let's find an area we support and get busy!

Sunday, July 30, 2017

What Is a Right?


Do we still have rights? What is a right, anyway? It isn't a law. Laws are made by governments, supposedly to uphold and protect its citizen's rights.

"A right is a gift from God that extends from our humanity," according to Judge Andrew P. Napolitano. Rights are a natural part of our humanity. "Thinkers from St. Augustine to St. Thomas Aquinas, from St. Thomas More to Thomas Jefferson, from the Reverend Rd. Martin Luther Kng Jr. to Pope John Paul II to Justice Clarence Thomas"* all argued this to be true. These are the inalienable rights named in our U.S. Constitution.

And the founders of our nation believed that the role of government is to protect and preserve the rights of every individual. And the only way it gets the power to do that is through the consent of the individuals involved. At least that is the way it is supposed to be.

I'm not so sure that is the way things are now. Nor are the people at the top of our government in agreement with that philosophy of our founders. The government has become the micromanager of the people today. And, over time, the citizens have given them way more power than the founders ever wanted the government to have. We have defaulted to being taken care of rather than to be the caretakers of our own lives.

Think about it. The government determines what crops can be grown, what medications can be manufactured, the cost of many goods and services, where resources can be obtained, who can pollute the air, water, soil. There are government controls on so many things that a full list would take pages and pages.

So much of this control was in the name of protecting us. And to a point that is true. Yet the misuse of that power has created harmful situations and inflated prices. Somewhere along the line the country has gotten off track and is in a mess. Is it possible to clean it up? I don't know. Some days I believe it can. Other days I don't.

What do you think? If we all worked together we could make it happen. If we can bridge the divide we could work for a better world, starting in our own country.


*It Is Dangerous To Be Right When the Government is Wrong by Andrew P. Napolitano.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Is This Really a Free Country?


I picked up a challenging book at the library. It is slow going, but it is so thought provoking that I have to read on. The book is It Is Dangerous to Be Right when the Government Is Wrong, The case for personal freedom by Judge Andrew P. Napolitano.

The reason I am reading it is that it explores the government's role in keeping us free, something that is on our minds a lot these days of political turmoil in Washington. The book takes us back to basics on freedom, addressing some hard questions.
  • What is a Constitution, and do we still have one?
  • What are the limits to government power to in a free society?
  • Why does the government attack, rather than defend, our rights?If our rights are inalienable, how can the government take them away? 
  •  Do we really own any private property?
Interesting, to say the least.

Judge Napolitano is a  lecturer on the U.S. Constitution, the rule of law, civil liberties in wartime, and human freedom. And he writes about this complex subject with illustrations that help lay people like me better understand it.

I'm not very far into the book, but already I keep asking things like: "who owns my body?" "Who decides what laws we must obey and which we can challenge?" "How are rights different from laws?" "Are we really all created equal?"

I don't know how far into the book I'll get before I'm totally overwhelmed. But I'm giving it a try.

What are you reading this summer? I'd love to know.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

The Summer Is Half Over!


With summer half over I wonder what comes next. Oh, I know that autumn follow summer. That's not really what I mean. I'm wondering what we plan to do next.

Most of us make plans for summer, places to go, things to do, etc. Some folks take their vacations then because they have kids in school the rest of the year. And most places in the U.S. have better travel weather in summer.

So have you completed your summer travels? How are you doing with your summer "to do" list? Have you made progress on those outdoor tasks you planned to do?

For me summer usually means I get to spend more time with my family. Most of them live at least one state away and they have school-aged children, so summer is a good time to travel for visits. And we have done that. There is still Labor Day weekend to look forward to family visiting.

This year our summer has been very busy with visits to in-laws and celebrations with them. And a visit with my family here. There have been lots of medical visits this summer, nothing terribly serious but it does take up time and energy, to say nothing of costs. Just keeping the yard tamed takes up a lot of time and energy, too! We've had lots and lots of rain this spring and summer and the grass and plants, including weeds, have grown like crazy.

The political madness has been exhausting. And it doesn't seem to let up. I keep hoping there will be some sanity returning to DC so we don't get blasted every day with the latest crisis. We need a break!

What about your summer? How have you spent it so far? What is next for you?

We are making travel plans for autumn. And hoping to have a calmer August than what the previous months have been. Looking forward to attending a powwow, maybe some road trips, and taking on another project in the house.

What's next for you?

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Hate Groups Are Alive and Well, Thriving Even


The Southern Poverty Law Center has identified 917 active hate groups in the U.S. And these groups are growing in membership and in activity.
"Since Election Day, we've tracked more than 1,000 hate incidents and exposed Trump's anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim, and anti-LGBT advisers."
They identify hate groups as having beliefs or practices that attack or malign an entire class of people, typically for their unchangeable characteristics.

Hate is fed by fear. And fear is fed by perceived threats. These days, fear seems to be the prime motivator of our government's politics. Wild stories about the dangerous-ness  of certain groups stirs up unrealistic fear in those who have no understanding of the targeted group and their beliefs or practices.

The way to reduce hate and fear is to foster understanding. We need to educate ourselves and our neighbors about the targeted groups. We need to get the real facts that go beyond the slogans or "fake news."

What do you really know about Islam? What are the real statistics about black violence? What is the truth about LGBT people and their lifestyles?

When we know the truth, when we know individuals in those groups we will have less fear and will smother the hate.

Visit a mosque. Dialog with people of different races. Become friends with LGBT people. Invite them to your groups and into your home. Do your part in fighting hate.

For specific details about hate groups in your state, go to www.splcenter.org/hatemap.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

How You and I Can Combat Hate


Since "love" and "hate" are both active verbs what we do will either spread love or spread hate. And since we want to combat hate we must act to confront it. We must do somthing in the face of hatred, because if we do nothing it will be interpreted as acceptance of hate.

So what CAN we do? We can always raise awareness of hate crimes when they occur. When you see something, say something! A cross burned in a yard is a call to action. Pick up the phone. Call friends and colleagues, neighbors, organizations. Bring together a gathering of people. Invite the mayor, newspapers, televisions stations to rally against hate.

Swastikas painted on walls? Tell people about it as an act of hate and rally a group of people to paint over it. 

A noose hanging in a yard or on a building? Alert the authorities and get people out to take it down. But don't stop there. Rally people to tell the people that hate won't be tolerated in your neighborhood or community. Be visible.

Urge the schools to address issues of hatred and violence. Get the kids involved in rallying for peace and equality. They can help remove graffiti, make signs for rallies. 

See hate images or slogans on clothing in the stores? Let the manager and the owners know that they are not tolerated. Campaign to get them to stop selling them.

Support the repair of hate fueled vandalism. Tell your friends and family that it has happened and rally help in showing that your neighborhood and community won't tolerate it. Organize block-watch groups to keep an eye on targets of vandalism, graffiti, etc., and report offenders. Use your camera phones to identify them to the police.

Sign petitions to stop hate crimes, to have severe consequences for those who commit them.

Attend a vigil.

Lead a prayer.

Help make fliers. Distribute fliers. Share your musical talents at a rally.

Give your employees the afternoon off to attend a rally.

Be creative. Take action. Do your part to fight hate.

Get to know someone in a minority group, someone who is different race or religion or sexual orientation from you and your friends. Learn more about them. Invite them to your group or your home. Meet them for coffee.

Attend a mosque or synagogue. Ask your church or group to invite other faiths to teach your group about their faith.

Write letters to the editor that support peace and equality and that encourage the paper to give more coverage of efforts to combat hate. Tell them to raise awareness of hate crimes so that they can be confronted and the victims can be supported.

Let victims know that YOU don't hate them. That there are more people who want to combat hate than there are people who perpetrate hate.

When we know more about it happening we can better intervene. Check out https://www.propublica.org/article/what-we-know-and-dont-know-about-hate-crimes-in-america?utm_source=pardot&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=dailynewsletter

Be aware. And be an active agent for change.