Richard G. Petty, MD

Asthma, Air and Allergies

After a couple of weeks away I was distressed to see that I was going to be returning to a city which has just been rated as the most challenging place in America for people with asthma.

This is the list according to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America:

  1. Atlanta
  2. Philadelphia
  3. Raleigh, North Carolina
  4. Knoxville, Tennessee
  5. Harrisburg, Pennsylvania
  6. Grand Rapids, Michigan
  7. Milwaukee
  8. Greensboro, North Carolina
  9. Scranton, Pennsylvania
  10. Little Rock, Arkansas

I am pleased to say that I do not have asthma, though I have a strong family history of it. If you live in one of these cities, or any other with a high rate of pollution, there is nothing much to be done apart from:

Staying indoors when the weather is bad

Using an air purifier

Keep to a diet designed to reduce your risk of inflammation

Use homeopathy and tapping therapies to help when necessary.

And sadly, for some people, medicines are the only option. But I always try the other approaches as well.

People Watching

For the eighth time in a week your humble reporter found himself at the Atlanta airport. Ahem, I should say, of course, the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport.

It’s a perfect place for people watching. New statistics out today have shown that in 2006 it held its position as the world’s busiest airport, followed by O’Hare in Chicago and London’s Heathrow.

I was chastened to realize that I have been in every one of the top ten airports in the last year or so. For people who like such things, here’s the list of the top ten busiest airports with the number of millions passengers who’ve been through each:

  1. Atlanta    84.8
  2. O’Hare    76.2
  3. Heathrow   67.5
  4. Tokyo’s Haneda    65.2
  5. Los Angeles International    61
  6. Dallas/Fort Worth    60
  7. Paris, Charles de Gaulle    56.8
  8. Frankfurt    52.8
  9. Beijing Capital International Airport    48.5
  10. Denver International    47.3

Spending a lot of time in airports can stress the physical, psychological and subtle systems of the body, as well as making it easy to lose touch with your spirituality.

I’m going to let you in on a secret: for over two decades I had learned and then taught methods for building resilience and bouncing back from adversity. But it wasn’t until I started flying a quarter of a million miles a year that I got the chance to test and refine the methods under the most extreme conditions. Engineers often talk about taking their constructions and “testing them to destruction.” I did the same thing with the methods I teach. If they couldn’t help people cope with flights, illness or job loss, then I discarded them and looked for something else. And if they didn’t also have another piece – a way to grow in response to adversity, they were out too.

The result has been a whole raft of techniques and methods that have been tried and tested again and again. Over the next year I shall be rolling out a great many of these techniques in a novel format.

Watch this space!

“Every adversity carries with it the seed of equal or greater benefit.”
–Napoleon Hill (American Founder of Personal Success Literature, 1883-1970)

“From the withered tree, a flower blooms.”
–Zen Buddhist Saying

“How you handle adversity in the workplace tends to have much more impact on your career than how you handle the good stuff. The people who know how to overcome adversity are the ones who rise to the top of the organization."
— Martin E. P. Seligman (American Psychologist, Professor at the University of Pennsylvania and Former President of the American Psychological Association, 1941-)

“Adversity is the diamond dust with which Heaven polishes its jewels.”
— Robert Leighton (Scottish Presbyterian Bishop and Classical Scholar, 1611-1684)

“Adversity has the effect of eliciting talents which in prosperous times would have lain dormant.”
–Horace (a.k.a. Quintus Horatius Flaccus, Roman Poet and Satirist, 65-8 B.C.E.)

“Adversity is not undesirable. Because, it is only when you are down and out in life that you can realize its true value.”
–Swami Ramdas (a.k.a. Papa Ramdas, Indian Spiritual Teacher, 1884-1963)

Heart Attacks, Meaning and Relationships

I am a doctor who has spent my career trying to empower people to take control of their lives, to fulfill and exceed their potential and to achieve and maintain vibrant good health. So I have worked my backside off to help people to deal with disease. But the curing of maladies is only half of our task. We also need to learn why things go wrong and what they are trying to teach us. So many of us have become wedded to the idea that illnesses are nuisances to be conquered rather than inevitable parts of life that can help us to grow and develop.

If our search just keeps turning up negatives, “I keep getting sick because I have bad luck/was born under a bad sign/have bad karma,” then you may need a little help from a therapist to help with those negative cognitions.

Here is a remarkably interesting study published in the current issue of the Journal of Advanced Nursing, that buttresses years of my own clinical observations: A third of people who suffer myocardial infarctions (heart attacks) discover new meaning to their lives and reconnect with their partner, but others see it as a threat to their well-ordered existence.

Researchers from Switzerland and the United States explored the experiences of 24 couples to see whether the one of them having had a heart attack changed their lives and their relationships. According to the researchers, three distinct behavioral patterns emerged as people tried to cope with a person’s heart attack:
Some said that the heart attack was an important and necessary event which had brought them closer together and transformed their lives.
Others felt fearful and threatened by the fact that they had no control over an unpredictable future.
The last group looked at various possibilities for positive change as a result of the heart attack. But they did not achieve them and felt that they had missed their chance to make things better.

It would be easy to pass off the people in the first group with the positive responses as “rationalizers:” people who are trying to make the best of a bad situation. But that would be a mistake. Severe, particularly life-threatening illness can often have a transformative effect on people an those around them. The key is to provide them with positive psychological and spiritual support.

This research strongly reaffirms the principle that successful recovery from a serious illness means more than eradicating it. It really means dealing not just with the physical, but also the psychological, social, subtle and spiritual aspects of what has happened.

In a cardiac rehabilitation program, if a person is in a stable relationship, it is essential to involve both partners in the program so that support can be tailored to their own individual relationship.

The lead researcher was Dr Romy Mahrer-Imhof, from the Institute of Nursing at the University of Basel in Switzerland, and she had this to say, “For example, counseling could provide these couples with more choices about how to negotiate more intimacy in a relationship in which each partner’s needs and wants are respected…. Group session are also useful as they show people how other couples deal with similar situations, helping them to conquer fear and find new ways of living, despite the illness.”

One of the reasons that I’m so militant about aggressive rehabilitation and involving the family is this. As a very young freshly minted doctor, I was involved in the care of a man who suffered from a very small heart attack at the unusually early age of 28. He made an uneventful physical recovery, but announced to his family that he would never work again, and that sexual intimacy or any other kind of physical activity was now out of the question for him. Overnight, he had become a needless cardiac cripple. As he left the hospital he refused to get dressed in regular clothes, but instead wore pajamas and a bathrobe. He shuffled along like an old man despite the fact that his exercise tolerance was probably as good as mine. He refused all offers of help, would not go to rehabilitation and refused to see a psychologist or counselor. Despite the fact that his heart had recovered completely, he died within a year.

Nobody could have forced him into having treatment, and as a newly qualified doctor I was only the team tadpole.

But if I’d known then what I know now, I doubt that he would have had such a sad outcome.

Enabling the re-integration of the whole person – body, mind, spirit, subtle systems and relationships – is the central core of Integrated Medicine and Healing, Meaning and Purpose.

“No man is an Island, entire of it self; every man is a piece of the Continent, a part of the main; if a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friends or of thine own were; any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in Mankind; And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; It tolls for thee.”
–John Donne (English Metaphysical Poet and Divine, 1572-1631)

“Deep within himself man seeks meaning for his life, and tries to fulfill himself in accordance with that meaning.”
–Viktor Frankl (Austrian Psychiatrist and Holocaust Survivor, 1905-1997)

“When we are motivated by goals that have deep meaning, by dreams that need completion, by pure love that needs expressing, then we truly live.”
–Greg Anderson (American Author and Founder of the Cancer Conquerors Foundation, 1947-)

“Love is the ultimate meaning of everything around us”
— Rabindranath Tagore (Indian Poet, Playwright, Essayist, Painter and, in 1913, Winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature, 1861-1941)

Great Mistakes

It is often amazing to see how many confident predictions never turned out to be correct. This is particularly important as we are building up the evidence base to support Integrated Medicine. In Healing, Meaning and Purpose I discuss some observations that nobody could understand until new theoretical models had been created.

One example is the observation that the orbit of Mercury around the Sun appears to be irregular. Astronomers spent years trying to find a theoretical planet called Vulcan that was supposed to explain the observations. It doesn’t exist. But it was not until 1905 that Einstein explained the apparent irregularities: light was being bent by the gravitational field of the Sun.

Here are a few examples of the great and the wise pontificating about the future and getting it dead wrong. Worth remembering the next time somebody says that homeopathy or acupuncture are "impossible," so any research data should be rejected out of hand!

360 B.C.E. “The discovery of the alphabet will create forgetfulness in the learners’ souls. You will give your disciples not truth but the semblance of truth: they will be heroes of many things, and will have learned nothing; they will appear to be omniscient and will generally know nothing.”
–Plato (Athenian Philosopher, 428-348 B.C.E.)

A.D. 79 “I am amazed, O Wall, that you have not collapsed and fallen, since you must bear the tedious stupidities of so many scrawlers.”
–Graffiti in Pompeii

A.D. 100 “Inventions have long since reached their limit, and I see no hope for further developments.”
–Julius Sextus Frontinus (Roman Governor of Britain, Author of a work on the Aqueducts of Rome, A.D.35-A.D.103)

1486 “So many centuries after the Creation, it is unlikely that anyone could find hitherto unknown lands of any value.”
–Report of a Committee to King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella of Spain concerning Columbus’ proposal

1530 “The multitude of books is a great evil. There is no limit to this fever for writing; every one must be an author; some out of vanity, to acquire celebrity and raise up a name, others for the sake of mere gain."
Martin Luther (German Priest and Scholar, 1483-1546)

1800 “What, sir, would you make a ship sail against the wind and currents by lighting a bonfire under her deck? I pray you, excuse me, I have not the time to listen to such nonsense.”
Napoleon Bonaparte (Corsican-born French Military Strategist, General and, from 1804-1814, Emperor of the French, 1769-1821) When told of Robert Fulton’s steamboat.

1807 “I would sooner believe that two Yankee professors lied, than that stones fell from the sky.”
Thomas Jefferson (American Writer, Philosopher, Politician and, from 1801-1809, 3rd President of the United States, 1743-1826) On hearing an eyewitness report of falling meteorites.

1819 “Artificial lighting drives out fear of the dark, which keeps the weak from sinning.”
–Kölnische Zeitung

1825 “What can be more palpably absurd than the prospect held out of locomotives traveling twice as fast as stagecoaches?”
–Quarterly Review

1830 “Rail travel at high speeds is not possible because passengers, unable to breathe, would die of asphyxia.”
–Dionysius Lardner (Irish Professor of Natural Philosophy and Astronomy at University College, London, 1793-1859)

1839 “The abolishment (sic) of pain in surgery is a chimera. It is absurd to go on seeking it… knife & pain are two words in surgery that must forever be associated in the consciousness of patients.”
–Alfred Velpeau (French Surgeon, 1795-1867)

1842 “I watched his countenance closely, to see if he was not deranged … and I was assured by other senators after he left the room that they had no confidence in it.”
–John Smith (American Politician and United States Senator for Indiana) After witnessing a demonstration of Samuel Morses’s telegraph.

1830 “Dear Mr. President: The canal system of this country is being threatened by a new form of transportation known as "railroads" … As you may well know, Mr. President, "railroad" carriages are pulled at the enormous speed of 15 miles per hour by "engines" which, in addition to endangering life and limb of passengers, roar and snort their way through the countryside, setting fire to crops, scaring the livestock and frightening women and children. The Almighty certainly never intended that people should travel at such breakneck speed.”
–Martin Van Buren (American Politician, Governor of New York and, from 1837-1841, 8th President of the United States, 1782-1862

1844 “There does not appear the slightest probability that, under any circumstances, Hong Kong will ever become a place of trade.”
–Robert Montgomery Martin (English Civil Servant and British Colonial Treasurer, 1800-1868)

1864 “No one will pay good money to get from Berlin to Potsdam in one hour when he can ride his horse there in one day for free.”
–King William I of Prussia (Prussian Aristocrat, Soldier and, from 1713 to 1740, King of Prussia, 1688-1740) On hearing of the invention of trains/

1865 “Well informed people know it is impossible to transmit the voice over wires and that were it possible to do so, the thing would be of no practical value.”
–The Boston Post

1872 “Louis Pasteur’s theory of germs is ridiculous fiction.”
–Pierre Pachet (French Professor of Physiology at Toulouse)   

1872 “It’s a great invention but who would want to use it anyway?”
–Rutherford B. Hayes (American Politician, and, from 1877-1881, 19th President of the United States) After a demonstration of Alexander Bell’s telepho

1873 “The abdomen, the chest, and the brain will forever be shut from the intrusion of the wise and humane surgeon.”
–Sir John Eric Erichsen (Danish-born British Surgeon and Surgeon-Extraordinary to Queen Victoria, 1818-1896)

1876 This ‘telephone’ has too many shortcomings to be seriously considered as a means of communication. The device is inherently of no value to us.”
–Western Union Memo

1878 “The Americans have need of the telephone, but we do not. We have plenty of messenger boys.”
–Sir William Henry Preece (Welsh Electrical Engineer and Chief Engineer of the British Post Office, 1834-1913)

1878 “When the Paris Exhibition closes electric light will close with it & no more be heard of.”
–Erasmus Wilson (English Physician and Philanthropist, 1809-1884)

1880 Such startling announcements as these should be deprecated as being unworthy of science and mischievous to its true progress.”
–Sir William Siemens (German-born British Engineer and Inventor, 1823-1883), on Edison’s announcement of a successful light bulb.

1888 “We are probably nearing the limit of all we can know about astronomy.”
–Simon Newcomb (Canadian-born American Astronomer, 1835-1909)

1889 "Fooling around with alternating current is just a waste of time. Nobody will use it, ever.”
–Thomas Alva Edison (American Inventor, 1847-1931)

1893 “Criminals will be prevented from propagating their kind. This will take the place of capital punishment. And after a few generations, this will do away with crime, since no criminals will be born.”
–Ella Wheeler Wilcox (American Poet and Journalist, 1850-1919)

1893 “All marriages will be happy in the 1990’s, because the law will put to death any man or woman who marries without the proper physical, mental and financial qualifications.”
–John Habberton (American Writer, 1842-1921)

1893 “By 1993 longevity will be so improved that 150 years will be no unusual age to reach.”
–Thomas De Witt Talmage (American Clergyman and Preacher, 1832-1902)

1894 “The most important fundamental laws and facts of physical science have all been discovered, and these are now so firmly established that the possibility of their ever being supplemented by new discoveries is exceedingly remote. Our future discoveries must be looked for in the sixth place of decimals”
–Albert Michelson (German-born American Physicist and, in 1907, Winner of the Nobel Prize in Physics, 1852-1931)

1895 “Heavier-than-air flying machines are impossible.”
–Lord Kelvin (a.k.a. William Thomson, 1st Baron Kelvin, English Physicist and President of the Royal Society, 1824-1907)

1895 "It is apparent to me that the possibilities of the airplane, which two or three years ago were thought to hold the solution to the [flying machine] problem, have been exhausted, and that we must turn elsewhere.”
–Thomas Alva Edison (American Inventor, 1847-1931)

1899 "Everything that can be invented, has been invented.”
–Charles Duell American Commissioner of the United States Office of Patents (This one is almost certainly a myth: Duell’s report actually talks about the ever-increasing number of new inventions!)

1899 “The ordinary "horseless carriage" is at present a luxury for the wealthy; and although its price will probably fall in the future, it will never, of course, come into as common use as the bicycle.”
–Literary Digest

1900 “There is nothing new to be discovered in physics now; All that remains is more and more precise measurement.”
— Lord Kelvin (a.k.a. William Thomson, 1st Baron Kelvin, English Physicist and President of the Royal Society, 1824-1907) {The same gentleman who said that "heavier than air machines" were impossible. Perhaps he then gave up on making predictions….}

1906 "The demonstration that no possible combination of known substances, known forms of machinery, and known forms of force can be united in a practicable machine by which men shall fly for long distances through the air, seems to the writer as complete as it is possible for the demonstration of any physical fact to be.”
–Simon Newcomb (Canadian-born American Astronomer, 1835-1909)

1921 “Professor Goddard does not know the relation between action and reaction and the need to have something better than a vacuum against which to react. He seems to lack the basic knowledge ladled out daily in high schools.”
–New York Times editorial about Robert Goddard’s revolutionary work on rockets.

1927 "Who the hell wants to hear actors talk?"
–H M Warner (American Founder of Warner Brothers, 1881-1958)   

1928 “There is no likelihood that man can ever tap the power of the atom. The glib supposition of utilizing atomic energy when our coal has run out is a completely unscientific Utopian dream, a childish bug-a-boo.”
–Robert Millikan (American Physicist, who, in 1923, Won the Nobel Prize in Physics, 1868-1953)

1929 “Stocks have reached what looks like a permanently high plateau.”
–Irving Fisher (American Professor of Economics, Yale University, 1867-1947)

1931 “In my lifetime, there will be no epidemics. There will be no incurable diseases.”
–Norman Bel Geddes (American Designer, 1893-1958)

1932 “There is not the slightest indication that nuclear energy will ever be obtainable. It wo
uld mean that the atom would have to be shattered at will.”

— Albert Einstein (German-born American Physicist and, in 1921, Winner of the Nobel Prize in Physics, 1879-1955

1933 “The energy produced by the atom is a very poor kind of thing. Anyone who expects a source of power from the transformation of these atoms is talking moonshine.”
— Ernest Rutherford, First Baron Rutherford of Nelson (New Zealand-born British Physicist and, in 1908, Winner of the Nobel Prize in Physics, 1871-1937

1936 “The whole procedure [of shooting rockets into space]…presents difficulties of so fundamental a nature, that we are forced to dismiss the notion as essentially impracticable, in spite of the author’s insistent appeal to put aside prejudice and to recollect the supposed impossibility of heavier-than-air flight before it was actually accomplished.”
–Richard van der Riet Woolley, British Astronomer and Astronomer Royal, 1906-1986)

1937 "I believe that at the end of the century the use of words and the general educated opinion will have altered so much that one will be able to speak of machines thinking without expecting to be contradicted.”
–Alan Turing (English Mathematician, 1912-1954)

1939 "The problem with television is that the people must sit and keep their eyes glued on a screen: the average American family hasn’t time for it.”
–The New York Times

1939 "Atomic energy might be as good as our present-day explosives, but it is unlikely to produce anything very much more dangerous."
Sir Winston Churchill (English Statesman, British Prime Minister, 1940-1945 and 1951-1955, and, in 1953, Winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature, 1874-1965)

1943 "I think there is a world market for maybe five computers.”
–Thomas J. Watson, Sr. (American Businessman and Founder of International Business Machines, 1874-1956)

1946 “[Television] won’t be able to hold on to any market it captures after the first six months. People will soon get tired of staring at a plywood box every night.”
–Darryl F. Zanuck (American Writer and Director, 1902-1979)   

1949 "Where a calculator on the ENIAC is equipped with 18,000 vacuum tubes and weighs 30 tons, computers in the future may have only 1,000 vacuum tubes and perhaps weigh 1.5 tons.”
–Popular Mechanics Magazine

1949 “It would appear that we have reached the limits of what it is possible to achieve with computer technology, although one should be careful with such statements, as they tend to sound pretty silly in 5 years.”
–John von Neumann (Hungarian-born American Mathematician who contributed to Quantum Mechanics and Game Theory, 1903-1957

1953 “If it keeps up, man will atrophy all his limbs but the push-button finger.”
–Frank Lloyd Wright (American Architect, 1867-1959)

1954 “If excessive smoking actually plays a role in the production of lung cancer, it seems to be a minor one.”
— W.C. Heuper (American Scientist and Director of the National Cancer Institute)

1959 “Before man reaches the moon, mail will be delivered within hours from New York to California, to Britain, to India or Australia by guided missiles. We stand on the threshold of rocket mail.”
–Arthur Summerfield (American Politician and, from 1953-1961, United States Postmaster General)

1962 “We don’t like their sound, and guitar music is on the way out.”
–Decca Recording Company in a letter rejecting the Beatles
“What the hell is [a microprocessor] good for?”
–Robert Lloyd of IBM’s Advanced Computing Systems Division

1970 “In from three to eight years we will have a machine with the general intelligence of an average human being.”
–Marvin Minsky (American Scientist and Philosopher in the Field of Artificial Intelligence, 1927-)

1970 “If I had thought about it, I wouldn’t have done the experiment. The literature was full of examples that said you can’t do this.”
–Spencer Silver (American Chemist and Inventor, 1941-) Speaking about the work that led to the adhesives for 3M "Post-It" Notepads.

1977 “There is no reason anyone would want a computer in their home.”
–Ken Olsen (American Engineer and President, Chairman and Founder of Digital Equipment Corporation, 1926-)

1981 “640K of memory ought to be enough for anybody.”
–Bill Gates (American Computer Genius, Businessman and Co-founder of Microsoft, 1955-)

1983 “No one knows what to do with seven windows at one time.”
–PC Week Magazine

1984 “The Macintosh uses an experimental pointing device called a mouse. There is no evidence that people want to use these things.”
–John Dvorak (American Columnist on Technology and Computing)

1995 “I predict the Internet will soon go spectacularly supernova and in 1996 catastrophically collapse.”
–Robert Metcalfe (American Technology Pioneer, 1946-)

1995 “To see tomorrow’s PC, look at today’s Macintosh.”
–BYTE Magazine

As a cheer leader for all things Apple, I just had to put in that last one!

Which leaves me with one more quotation:
"When a distinguished but elderly scientist states that something is possible, he is almost certainly right. When he states that something is impossible, he is very probably wrong."
–Arthur C. Clarke (English-born Writer, 1917-) First Law of Science.

Chiropractic Treatment and Diabetes?

There is an interesting, thought still preliminary, article in the Journal of Vertebral Subluxation Research about the possibility that chiropractic manipulation may be able to make a valuable contribution to an overall program of wellness to help people with diabetes.

There is a case report of an insulin-requiring person with type 2 diabetes, whose diabetes stabilized as he had a short course of chiropractic manipulation. I’ve seen many such cases with acupuncture and homeopathy as well as osteopathic and chiropractic manipulation. But it has always been very difficult to tell if there was a causal relationship.  Diabetes is such a variable group of illnesses that something as simple as stress reduction or a person sleeping better can both help normalize glucose levels, as least for a while.

What I really liked about the article was the measured tone: the editor makes it clear that it’s an interesting observation but that it’s still early days. Nothing so irritates people in conventional medicine than wild grandiose claims that some treatment or other can cure everything.

The editor also calls for more research, and I totally agree. I’ve spent the last 25 years trying to get research moving in the fields of complementary, alternative and Integrated Medicine, and we have already had a decent level of success in getting many projects funded and completed.

“The simple exercise of stretching helps to counter the congestions, compressions, and adhesions which obstruct the flow of the vital force through the spinal column with its sixty-two branching nerves and thus to regain energy. This truth of the need of spine-loosening movement is instinctively known by every dog and cat, every lion and tiger, for they apply it immediately after awakening from sleep. The back, the legs, and even paws are bent and stretched and even rolled by them in this natural exercise.”

–Paul Brunton (English Spiritual Teacher and Author, 1898-1981)

Prayer and Healing

We have already talked a little about the associations between active, healthy spirituality and psychological and physical well-being.

Yet another study has highlighted the connection, showing that breast cancer patients who pray in online support groups can obtain mental health benefits.

Researchers from the University of Wisconsin-Madison Center of Excellence in Cancer Communications Research did the study that was that was funded by the National Cancer Institute.

The research looked at message transcripts from 97 breast cancer patients participating in an online support group that was integrated with the Comprehensive Health Enhancement Support System (CHESS) “Living with Breast Cancer” program, a computer-based health education and support system. The patients were recruited from Wisconsin and Michigan.

Surveys were administered before group access and then again four months later. Text messages within the computer-mediated support groups were analyzed using a text analysis program that measured the percentage of words that were suggestive of religious belief and practice (e.g., pray, worship, faith, holy, God). Writing a higher percentage of these religious words within the online support groups was associated with lower levels of negative emotions and higher levels of self-efficacy and functional well-being, even after controlling for patients’ pre-test levels of religious beliefs.

One of the researchers had this to say:

“From a psychological standpoint, there are a variety of reasons why cancer patients may benefit from prayer – whether on the Internet or elsewhere. In reviewing the messages, some of the most common ways study participants used religion to cope with their illness included putting trust in God about the course of their illness and consequently feeling less stressed, believing in an afterlife and therefore being less afraid of death, finding blessings in their lives and appraising their cancer experience in a more constructive religious light.”

And that is, of course, one set of explanations for the findings.

Or perhaps, as we have seen before, there is a growing body of research to indicate that prayer is effective.

We just have to expect it to be effective. And isn’t that faith?

“Prayer, like radium, is a luminous and self-generating form of energy.”
–Alexis Carrel (French-born American Surgeon, Experimental Biologist and, in 1912, Winner of the Nobel Prize for Medicine or Physiology, 1873-1944)

“Too often we see prayer as a last resort rather than as our first thought. People will say, “I guess all we can do now is pray!” like that’s the last thing, horrible thing to do. And your friend says, “Has it come to that?! Is it so hopeless that all we can do is pray?”
–Rick Warren (American Evangelist and Author, 1954-)

“Though God knows all our needs, prayer is necessary for the cleansing and enlightenment of the soul.”
— John Sergieff of Kronstadt (Russian Priest who, in 1882, Established the House of Industriousness, 1829-1909)

“Man often thinks that, as God is the knower of the heart, there can be no need of any recital or gesture in prayer: but that it would surely be sufficient if he were to sit in the silence and think of God. But this is not so; it is according to the extent of a man’s consciousness of prayer that his prayer reaches God.”
–Hazrat Inayat Khan (Founder of the Sufi Order of the West, 1882-1927)

“Through prayer, the love of God grows and assumes a form which is called supreme devotion. Forms vanish, rituals fly away, books are superseded, images, temples, churches, religions and sects, countries and nationalities – all these little limitations and bondages fall off by their own nature from him who knows this love of God.”
–Swami Vivekananda (Indian Hindu Mystic and Spiritual Teacher, 1863-1902)

“Prayer is part of man’s original nature. He can never be satisfied with merely meditative religion, and naturally and involuntarily inclines to move on to the religion of prayer.”
–Toyohiko Kagawa (Japanese Christian Anti-War Campaigner, 1888-1960)

“All true prayer somehow confesses our absolute dependence on the Lord of life and death.”
Thomas Merton (French-born American Trappist Monk and Writer, 1915-1968)

“There is a relationship between prayer and action. Receptive prayer results in an inner receiving, which motivates to right action.”
— “Peace Pilgrim” (a.k.a. Mildred Norman, American Peace Activist, 1908-1981)

A Possible New Treatment for Attention Deficit Disorder

Although I am always eager to use non-pharmacological treatments whenever possible, sometimes it just isn’t possible to us them on their own. I’ve outlined some of the reasons for treating attention deficit disorder (ADD) in a previous post.

We should soon hear whether the regulatory authorities in the United States and Europe are going to approve a medicine – guanfacine – that we currently use for treating high blood pressure, for the treatment of ADD. In the United States it is currently sold under the trade name Tenex. The medicine works in the brain by modulating a population of receptors known as the central nervous system α-2 adrenergic receptors, which results in reduced sympathetic outflow leading to reduced vascular tone. Its adverse reactions include dry mouth, sedation, and constipation.

The idea of using a medicine like this for treating ADD is not new. Fifteen years ago researchers showed that receptor agonists like clonidine decreased distractibility in aged monkeys. And clonidine itself has occasionally been used for treating ADD for over twenty years.

Guanfacine seems to have some unique properties including decreasing the activity in the caudate nucleus while increasing frontal cortical activity. We would therefore expect it not only to help with ADD symptoms, but it may have some quite specific properties relating to learning new material. A key point is that if approved it will only be the second nonstimulant medicine for ADD, along with atomoxetine (Strattera). Many clinicians have had a lot of trouble with side effects of atomoxetine, particularly if it is used in adult men. So if guanfacine is approved, and if it does not have the same side effects, that would be a big bonus.

New options are always welcome, but it remains important for any new pharmacological treatment to be nested in an Integrated approach, which always includes nutrition, physical and cognitive exercises, psychological and social help, as well as attending to the subtle and spiritual aspects of the problem.

And ADD can be a very big problem, despite the protestations from people who claim that it is a non-disease dreamed up by pharmaceutical companies. Our interest is not just professional, but personal. Every single day we see what can happen if someone forgets their medicine.

If the FDA gives approval for guanfacine I shall immediately report it for you, as well as giving you details of all the safety and tolerability data.

Arthritis and Sex

Today being Valentine’s Day (you did remember didn’t you?), Arthritis Care in the United Kingdom has taken the opportunity  to publicize its free booklet on sex, relationships, intimacy and arthritis, downloadable from its website (pdf).

Integrated Medicine is all about empowering and caring for the whole person, so I was very pleased to see this document. I spent some very happy times helping people with various types of arthritis, and I was astonished how infrequently anyone had ever asked them about the ways in which the illness impacted normal daily activities and had ever given them any advice on ways to work around problems.

Let me quote form the Arthritis Care news release:

"One of the reasons we produced the guide is to address issues people felt awkward discussing. It may be embarrassing to talk to your consultant rheumatologist, nurse or GP about emotional and sexual things, or matters of self-image and self-esteem – and they may be embarrassed to be asked. So where do you turn?’ said Kate Llewelyn head of publications at Arthritis Care, who was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis at the age of thirteen.

The booklet provides a valuable insight for healthcare professionals and for the partners and families of people with arthritis, highlighting issues of concern to them, and suggesting practical and achievable solutions.

For people with arthritis, or other disabilities, difficulty can start before any relationship, pre-dating any date.

‘Managing pain and other symptoms is exhausting, and it stops many people getting out and socializing. As a result, arthritis can be isolating, keeping you from making friends or seeing family, let alone dating and finding a partner. And maybe you are not very mobile, so can’t dance, or play sport, or can’t drink because of your medications. What’s more, although anti-discrimination law means venues must now offer better access for disabled people, you still may find it harder to do things people without arthritis take for granted’, said Kate Llewelyn.

Once a relationship has been formed, the challenges continue; the couple must work out ways of ensuring their personal and sexual relationship is sustained and developed, overcoming and working round the incurable and debilitating condition.

The report discusses a number of very practical matters: how pain and also medication can interfere with sex drive and some can cause weight gain. Many forms of arthritis are also associated with anemia and/or chronic fatigue.

It also discusses some of the psychological factors that can interfere with the sex lives of arthritis sufferers. For example, men may feel emasculated if they cannot perform their ‘traditional’ roles like playing sport or carrying heavy objects. Women may feel unfeminine if they put on weight with steroids, cannot do the housework or lift their children as a result of having arthritis. Others, with limited joint movement, or severe pain may be put off sex altogether, or find some of the traditional sex positions too uncomfortable.

‘The book has got diagrams of lovemaking positions which people of differing physical abilities and limited movement have found useful. If you’ve got problems with your spine, or hips, or knees, it makes sense to experiment with positions that place least weight or strain on the rogue joints. Of course, after joint surgery or replacement, you may be advised to take a temporary break from sex, but, relationships are more than sex, and, with this guide, abstinence may make the heart grow fonder’, said Kate Llewelyn.

Sex is rarely discussed with people strugglig with chronic illness, often because health care providers get embarassed about it.

It is essential for that to change, and I want to say a big thank you to Arthitis Care for having the courage to do this.

Diseases of Discipleship

You will not find them listed on WebMD, but “Diseases of Discipleship” are nonetheless very real. I have mentioned them in Healing Meaning and Purpose and also here. They are the result of sudden access to spiritual energies that can upset the balance of the body, mind and spirit. The great value of having a teacher is to help you balance and work with these energies without being harmed by them.

Several of my own teachers talked a lot about these diseases of discipleship, but I would particularly like to single out Douglas Baker and the writings of Roberto Assagioli, Del Pe, Torkom Saraydarian, Stan Grof and Alice Bailey.

I have also had a great deal of experience with people undergoing spiritual crises. Many have been referred to me by priests, clergy and intuitives, because many of the individuals thought that they were “going crazy,” and some had ben given psychiatric diagnoses. That extensive experience has helped me and some of my students to describe some of the “symptoms” in more detail.

Roberto Assagioli identified five critical points where problems may arise:

  1. Just before spiritual awakening begins
  2. Crises caused by spiritual awakening
  3. Reactions to spiritual awakening
  4. Phases of the process of transmutation
  5. The “Dark Night of the Soul

Today I am just going to focus on the crises caused by spiritual awakening, because a great many people are experiencing them at the moment.

Here are some of the more common signs and symptoms include:

  • Visual disturbances
  • Extreme sensitivity to light and sound
  • Paradoxically they often also find a raised pain threshold
  • Increased metabolic rate, which may cause a slight increase in body temperature and a little weight loss
  • Variable libido: some people lose all interest in sex, but most experience an increase in sexual desire, which can take them and any partners by surprise
  • Disturbances in circadian rhythms
  • Disturbances in thyroid and adrenal function: the thyroid often becomes slightly – or sometimes more than slightly – overactive and the adrenal glands slightly less responsive to stimulation
  • Hypoglycemia
  • Hypertension
  • Chronic fatigue
  • Anxiety and a feeling of “butterflies” in the region of the solar plexus
  • Inexplicable sensations roughly corresponding to the channels identified in Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine
  • Irregular breathing patterns, usually hyperventilation
  • Something that feels like electricity under the tongue and under the palate
  • Crying for no readily apparent reason
  • As peoples’ consciousness rises, it is quite common to experience “Synesthesia” in which senses overlap: people may taste sounds, feel colors and “hear and see” with different parts of the body
  • Psychic abilities often begin to appear: clairvoyance, clairaudience, spiritual intuition and the ability to heal
  • Many begin to feel and see their own Inner Light and the Inner Light of other people

Not everyone gets all of these symptoms and they may come and go for a while. Some people don’t get any at all, but they are unusual. There are two books by Hazel Courteney that detail some of what happened to her, and they are well worth a read.

It is important to emphasize that all of these signs and symptoms can also be caused by illnesses. So although most people who are going through all this want to avoid doctors, it is a very good idea to ensure that everything is okay. I once saw someone who had been told that she was having a kundalini experience, even though she did not have any of the usual features. She became very unwell, but felt much better when an insulin-producing tumor was removed from her pancreas.

The most important thing is to help people remain grounded. I have seen many people become extremely grandiose and even fanatical after going through a rapid spiritual awakening. It is also important to ensure that any physical symptoms – such as thyroid or blood pressure problems – do not continue unchecked.

Helping people who are going through spiritual change or crisis needs the help of a person or persons who understand physical and psychological problems, as well as being some way along the path of spiritual development. By “crisis” I do not mean crisis of faith, but a critical turning point in an individual’s personal development.

There are plenty of good ways of grounding using some physical, psychological and subtle system exercises. I have dozens of excellent techniques that I can publish if you are interested. Sometimes it is also a good idea to eat some heavy food.

It can be very helpful to get away form other people for a while. This doesn’t mean becoming a monk or nun, but just to avoid a bad case of people poisoning. In their overly sensitive state they can pick up a lot of negative things from the people around them. I have known a good many people who would begin to experience all the physical and psychological symptoms of the people around them.

Once we have confirmed that the person does not have all this as a result of thyroid disease or anxiety, it is essential to show them what is going on and the best way to approach and conceptualize it.

Next we help people to control some of the impulses that can otherwise swamp them. One of the many reasons for development of the sophisticated mind control techniques developed by Tibetan Buddhism was to help people watch their spiritual unfoldment without being overwhelmed by it.

We also try to help people to transmute psychological energies so that they can be used constructively.

Everybody is different, but in some people acupuncture, qigong, Reiki and homeopathy have all been helpful. Several of the flower essences can be very useful, in particular:
Star Tulip
White Yarrow
Pink Yarrow

Every expert that I know in the field of spiritual development agrees with my observation that there are currently more people having major spiritual changes than ever before. It is essential for us all to know how to protect, support and birth them.

“To penetrate into the essence of all being and significance, and to release the fragrance of that inner attainment for the guidance and benefit of others, by expressing in the world of forms – truth, love, purity and beauty – this is the sole game that has any intrinsic and absolute worth. All other incidents and attainments can, in themselves, have no lasting importance.”

–Meher Baba (Indian Spiritual Teacher who, from July 1925 maintained Silence, 1894-1969)

“You knock at the door of Reality. You shake your thought wings, loosen your shoulders, and open.”
–Jalal al-Din Rumi (Afghan Sufi Poet, 1207-1273)

“Life is a series of awakenings.”

–Sri Swami Sivananda (Indian Physician and Spiritual Teacher, 1887-1963)

“What we usually call human evolution is the awakening of the Divine Nature within us.”

–“Peace Pilgrim” (a.k.a. Mildred Norman, American Peace Activist, 1908-1981)


One of the most amazing monuments in England is Stonehenge. These days most people cannot enter it, but when I first saw it as a teenager in the early 1970s you could still go inside, and it was one of the places that I was taught to dowse. The power of the place has undoubtedly risen with its fame and mystery, but the fact remains that most sensitive people are quite strongly affected by it.

Some of the stones were probably brought from South Wales and the entire Stonehenge complex was built in several construction phases spanning
about 2,000 years, although there is evidence for activity both before and
afterwards on the site. There was a wooden henge of the site long before the stones arrived.

The BBC is reporting that archaeologists have discovered a huge ancient settlement used by some of the people who built Stonehenge.

Excavations at Durrington Walls have uncovered remains of ancient houses. People seem to have occupied the sites seasonally, using them for ritual feasting and funeral ceremonies.

It is thought that in ancient times, this settlement would have housed hundreds of people, making it the largest Neolithic village ever found in Britain. The dwellings date back to 2,600-2,500 BC – according to the researchers, the same period that Stonehenge was being built or re-built.

Mike Parker Pearson from the University of Sheffield, said, “In what were houses, we have excavated the outlines on the floors of box beds and wooden dressers or cupboards.”

The researchers have excavated eight houses in total at Durrington. But they have identified many other probable dwellings using geophysical surveying equipment. They think there could have been at least one hundred houses, each measuring about 5m (16ft). They are square, made of timber, with a clay floor and central hearth. The archaeologists found 4,600-year-old rubbish covering the floors of the houses.

And archaeologists love rubbish!

The evidence suggest that Stonehenge drew Neolithic people from all over the region, who came for massive feasts in the midwinter where they consumed prodigious quantities of food. The bones were then tossed on the floors of the houses.

Durrington has its own henge made of wood, which is strikingly similar in layout to Stonehenge. It was discovered in 1967.

Both henges line up with events in the astronomical calendar – but not the same ones. Stonehenge is aligned with the midwinter solstice sunset, while Durrington’s timber circle is aligned with the midwinter solstice sunrise. So it would seem that they were complementary.

Stonehenge lies on an extraordinary system of ley lines that crisscross the British Isles, parts of Northern France and parts of China. The lines are usually dismissed as pseudoscience, and it is certainly sometimes difficult to follow what some writers have to say on the subject. There is also a small body of evidence that some people can sense these ley lines. For people who can, the sensation is much the same as feeling the acupuncture meridians of the body. This apparent similarity has lead some experts in Feng Shui to approach personal wellness in the same way that they recommend the placement of plants, mirrors and other objects. Both the body and the land are looked at like gardens that need to be cultivated.

With some people, where they live, how they lie in bed and where they are treated can all be affected by these lines. Others don’t seem to notice a thing. I was once treating a lawyer with insomnia, and things were not going well. Until she went on vacation to England and she was fine for a couple of weeks. On her return to the USA we just moved her bed and the problem was solved. I just wish that it were always that easy!

It took me a long time to be persuaded that what I and others felt at Stonehenge and along these lines was real and not just make believe. But now I am convinced. The Ancients knew something about the relationship of the land to their lives, and we are finally recovering some of that knowledge for ourselves.

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