Real medicine

I knew a lady who was cold. It was early in the morning and she was shivering. She asked her daughter to get her a hot cup of coffee. She hadn’t slept well all night. We have been in a camping event so there wasn’t any central heat. She hadn’t brought enough blankets either. I looked at how she was sitting – all hunched over, hugging her arms to herself. This was a physical coldness and it didn’t need to be fixed by putting something into her, especially a stimulant. That would make her feel worse with her lack of sleep.

Her hair was thinning a little so I offered her a knit cap. We lose most of our heat through our heads. She put the cap on and within 10 minutes she was visibly warmer. She relaxed her shoulders and rested her arms on the table instead of hugging herself. She was a lot more comfortable. It was a simple fix that didn’t require coffee.

I had a coworker who had a headache one day and he asked for a Tylenol. I gave him one. Two days later he said he had another headache. He asked for another Tylenol. I didn’t give him one this time. He was young and needed to learn how to take care of himself. By that I mean more than just buying his own supplies instead of expecting other people to supply his needs.

More importantly, he needed to learn how to take care of himself by fixing the cause and not the symptom. The symptom just points to the cause. I told him to go drink water. If he didn’t feel better after 20 minutes (which is about the same time that a Tylenol would take) then I would give him a Tylenol. He went over to the water fountain had a sip. I said “No, keep drinking until I tell you to stop.” He needed to have 16 ounces of water, not a sip. I watched him drink and counted off the time and then told him to stop.

I forgot about keeping time on purpose. An hour later I pointed out to him that he hadn’t asked for a Tylenol again. His headache was gone.

Likewise, we have a guy who is studying to be a doctor who is there every day at the library. He’s a doctor in another country, but America won’t take his credentials. He has to take the exam here to be licensed here. He’s been studying every day and he’s not been taking care of himself. It is starting to show.

His hair isn’t brushed, his clothes are rumpled, and he now is saying that he can’t sleep and he has a headache. He asked me for a Tylenol. Rather than give him that kind of medicine, I gave him real medicine. Whether he takes it or not is up to him.

Real medicine is to suggest he take time off, go eat healthy food (all he eats is meat and rice), go exercise, and spend time with his wife. He says that he can’t leave his studies. He doesn’t get that if he doesn’t take care of himself, then it doesn’t matter what he studies – it won’t go in.

We’ve talked about preventative medicine before and he blows me off. He’ll make a fine western doctor if he passes. They treat the symptoms and not the cause too.

I tell him about friends of mine who are now off their diabetes medicine because they eat healthy food, exercise, and have lost weight. He thinks I’m lying. He says it isn’t possible.

He even brings his food to the library. Somehow they have an understanding in the department he studies in. He’s got a little crock-pot that he plugs in to heat up his food. He doesn’t even have to cook it. He gets it from his in-laws. When I say he needs to take time away from his studies and go outside the library for lunch, he says he can’t eat anywhere else because he has to eat food that is halal because he’s Muslim. I point out that you can eat vegetarian food and be perfectly safe. He wrinkles his nose at me.

It is hard to watch people drown.

Sure, I could give him a Tylenol. But that is aiding and abetting.

I’d be like the doctor who gave my Dad a prescription for cough medicine, knowing that he smoked two packs of cigarettes a day. Of course he coughed. Cough medicine isn’t the right medicine. Real medicine would be to refuse to treat him until he stopped smoking. Real medicine would be to direct him to smoking-cessation programs. Real medicine would be to help him learn better ways to deal with stress than smoking.

Real medicine involves hard work, not a pill. Real medicine involves being mindful and disciplined. It features daily exercise, no stimulants, no refined sugar, and lots of vegetables. It includes focusing on breathing. It includes learning to speak up for yourself. It includes being creative. It includes making time to rest. It includes working towards your dreams. It isn’t easy.

Becoming conscious is a lot like becoming sober.

Root of it all

There are a thousand hacking away at the branches of evil to one striking at the root. – Henry David Thoreau

But where is the root? How can you find it, buried beneath all that dirt? You can’t see it. It is down deep. Do you have the tools necessary to dig that far? Do you have the strength? Or is simply looking for it the answer?

So many people try to treat the symptom rather than the source. They attack the outcome. They run around in circles, never resting, because they don’t hack away at the root.

I want to cure cancer by preventing it. Not by drugs, but by better lifestyle choices.

I want to solve the pro-life anti-abortion debate the same way. I believe in better birth control through better self control.

I believe the cure for poverty is the same as well.

In all situations, accidents happen, but they are a minority. We can’t blame outside circumstances when the problem often starts inside.

We cannot keep living our lives passively as if someone else is going to rescue us. We can’t wait for a hero, a superman, or a Messiah.

Our parents, our schools, and our churches teach us this pattern. Sit down, shut up, and an authority figure will do all the talking and all the thinking. Our job is to parrot back what we have heard. Deviations from this are punished by shaming or shunning. We are told to stop talking or told to leave.

It is time for us to occupy our lives. It is time to be adults in more than name only. It is time to look behind us for lessons and to look ahead of us for repercussions. We can’t run on auto pilot anymore.

We have met the enemy, and he is us. – Pogo.

We are the ones we have been waiting for. (Attributed to Hopi elders)

We are the problem and the solution.

Waiting for a hero

Maybe people are waiting for the Messiah for the same reason they are sick all the time. They think somebody else is going to rescue them. They think they don’t have to do anything about their lives. They stay children, stay passive, stay asleep.

They refuse to take care of their health, and then they are surprised when they have a chronic disease. They pray for a miracle. They expect the doctors or God to save them. How is this any different than how we live, waiting for the Messiah to make the world better? In both cases, the power is in our hands. It requires daily work made up of thousands of tiny bits of effort, not a sudden one-time push from an outside source.

Jesus didn’t want us to live like this, dependent, expecting others to rescue us. Jesus tells his disciples (that is us, by the way) that they (we) have the same powers he does. We are able to heal through our faith. We don’t have to wait for the second coming. We don’t have to wait for a Messiah.

God didn’t want the Jewish people to have a king in the first place. He didn’t want them to have a person over them. He didn’t want them to give away their power. They insisted, and God gave them what they asked for. Their history with bad rulers is well documented in the Bible.

The idea of the Messiah is that he is to be the best king. The interesting part is that Jesus came to do away with the idea of kings. He said to not have anyone over you but God. Jesus came to restore the true Ruler, who is God. Jesus came to erase the mistake of letting a person rule. Jesus came to erase all hierarchy.

Even Jesus doesn’t want to be in charge. Jesus isn’t going to come again to save you. Jesus came to tell you that you have all the tools you need, already, to do what needs to be done. Don’t think you are up to the task? He says you are. Just thinking of the possibility of making the world better is the tiny spark that is needed. It is the mustard seed.

Jesus says you don’t need to be saved. Jesus says you aren’t lost.

Poem Road

The path is the place.
The road is the way.
You don’t ever really arrive.
Just keep moving
towards the goal,
towards the good.
Just keep moving

Running away from
isn’t the best plan.
You’ll trip over
God knows what.
You’ll end up
God knows where.

Make your path towards
what you envision,
see forward,
seek further.

With each step examine,
is it in the right direction?
Does it build up or tear down?

Just like English motorways,
if you don’t aim yourself
at something approaching
where you want to be
with every roundabout,
you’ll end up 50 miles or an hour
away from
where you were headed
with no easy way to turn around.

Life is like that.
You may have a map
or maybe not.
But look out the window
so you don’t end up

Consider Superman

He had a real job, working at the Daily Planet. Mild mannered, unassuming, he did his work reporting the news. It was a passive job, relating to others about all the terrible things that were happening in the community and the world.

Meanwhile, he was Superman all along. On his off time, he did what he really wanted to do. When not at work, he did the real work of making the world better. Instead of reporting about all the bad that was happening, he did good to make the bad not happen.

Why couldn’t he make that his real job? Why couldn’t he get paid to do that all the time, instead of having to do this on his own time?

And how much does this speak to us, we who feel powerless to effect change in the world? Those of us who feel like we have to wait until we retire to do what we really want?

Why do people who want to make a difference in the world have to start their own businesses? Is there not a market for good? Is the world only happy with hearing about the bad, rather than making a difference for good?

Rise up, not riot

The riots in Ferguson speak to the pain and frustration that the black community feels. Yet they are saying the wrong thing. They are saying that violence and destruction is standard operating procedure for the black community.

We all know that isn’t so. We all know that the majority of our black neighbors are kind, hard-working and polite. In short, they aren’t thugs and hoodlums. Sadly though, good doesn’t sell in the news, so we don’t see their stories on the evening news. The only problem is that there are thugs and hoodlums. They aren’t just stories. The only problem is that there are “baby daddies” and “welfare moms” aplenty. Clichés come from reality. The actions of the few speak for the whole and they drag down everybody.

When college educated black youths are made fun of for “talking white” when they speak clearly it drags down everybody. When some black employees “play the race card” to stay employed even though they are doing half the work (or only there half the time) it drags down everybody.

Yes, it is time to rise up but not with riots and destruction. If the black community wants to make a real change, to be really heard, there needs to be a collective decision to “check yourself before you wreck yourself”.

Use the library to get books not DVDs. And by books I mean educational and uplifting ones, not ones that teach the same old script of “thug meets girl, thug uses girl”. The entire genre of “urban erotic fiction” is dumbing-down black women and enslaving their hearts and minds.

Celebrate education rather than ignorance. Sure misery loves company but miserable people aren’t good to hang out with. Rise up past the peer pressure and the collective dumbing down of our society.

Get healthy. Good health leads to strong minds and spirits. Eat better. Exercise. All these things are doable even with limited means. If we focus on what we can do rather than what we can’t we get free. If we look for openings rather than closed doors we will see them. Quit smoking and go for a walk instead. Avoid all sugar, caffeine and fried and salty foods. These socially accepted addictions are dragging down us all.

Sure we have a race problem in America. Sure we have a long way to go. Sure there have been problems on both sides of the race wall. Sure people are going to say that I don’t get it because I’m white and have white privilege.

Yet I do know what it is like to feel dragged down by my peers who wanted me to be as petty and lazy as them, the worst version of lowest common denominator. I got a college degree and they are still working in fast food. I do know what it is like to have a learning disability and rise up above it through hard work. It is why I now tutor learning-disabled kindergartners. I do know what it is like to be obese and addicted to drugs. It is why I write now to show there is a way out.

It isn’t easy to change but it is possible. Change starts one step at a time, one person at a time. The strong have to encourage the week. Good deeds and efforts soon start to outweigh the bad and momentum is achieved.

All this may sound like I’m blaming the black community when it was certainly the fault of police who shoot unarmed, unresisting black youths. It is certainly the fault of the judicial system that lets the guilty go free. We need to work on that too but that will take longer. Right now the first and best change has to start from within. Each individual has to decide to stand up and walk away from the old rules and the old clichés. Each individual needs to lift up everybody else with their actions. It is about caring for yourself and our community through the true empowerment that comes from education and health.

Watch it.

There is a difference between living and being alive.


My mother-in-law had at least 20 different watches that we have found after she died. Some were separated from their wristbands. She still had them, along with the pins that would have held them together.

None of them were working.


All these watches to keep the time, and she wasn’t mindful of it. All these watches to keep time, and she still wasted it.

Her obituary was sad. It was almost shorter than the dash between her birth and death dates. The list of who survived her was longer than the list of her accomplishments. The fact that she outlasted the doctor’s estimate for her to die was prominent.

So she was alive, but what did she do with her life?

This piece speaks to my frustration with her having 70 years of life and nothing to show for it. This piece speaks to my anger that my parents died young and didn’t have time to enjoy the life of retirement. This piece speaks to my doubling-up of my activities so I don’t waste time.

I’m mindful of how short life is.

Too many people these days seem to think there is a “reset” button on life, and there isn’t. They seem to think that life is like the seasons – that there will be a spring after the winter. While I’m part of a faith tradition that believes in the afterlife, I’d like to not find out I’m wrong. I want to have a life before the afterlife.

This is why I write, and create. This is why I wake up early. This is why I take classes that are hard and read books to learn how to help. I don’t want to just have been alive, taking up space. I don’t want to wait until I retire to live.

These watches remind me to be watchful.

The artwork is made using an 11×14 canvas, acrylic paint, matte medium, decoupage glue, five watches, and 11 color copied images of watches, all from the collection of my mother-in-law.

Food and news – raw vs processed

We suffer from too many opinions, and not enough reality. We are pulling away from the mindsets and modalities of the past, but walking into the future with no tools and no idea.

No matter what you read or where you read it from, find at least three other sources on that same topic. Don’t share anything as “true” or a “fact” until you’ve learned as much about it as you can from as many different sources as you can.

I think the real issue is that people don’t trust “The authorities” – so they want to get everything raw, for themselves. They want to put it together themselves. This applies to information as well as food. They feel that their stuff has been tampered with, adulterated. They feel they are being lied to.

So they try to get their food organic and as minimally processed and as close to home as possible. Or they grow it themselves. This way they know where their food came from. Likewise, they trust the opinions of their friends and individuals more than they trust the news. They’ll learn from YouTube rather than a commercially-run organization.

While there is a lot to be gained from doing things for yourself, there is also a lot that can be lost. Do we have to become our own doctors and lawyers and therapists? They went to school to learn how to do what they do. They went through years of study and oversight and tests. Their experience and training has to count for something.

There seems to be a trend where people think they can simply “listen to their own inner voice” and know what needs to be done. Is this healthy? Is it wise?

While we are pulling away from the passive mindset of our past, we are jumping blindly into our future. We aren’t experts, but we are starting to think that even the experts aren’t the experts.

Where do we go from here? What happens next?

Say we can’t trust the authorities, the government, our teachers. Say that doctors are paid to give us pills, rather than get us well. Say that politicians are out to make money rather than make things right. Say that teachers teach indoctrination and submission, rather than how to think. Say that the farmers fill their produce and animals with poisons, rather than provide us with healthy food.

What next? Pull away from all of this, and do it all on our own?

While it is a good idea to be intentional about your life and mindful, it is also good to not think that someone with no education and experience is wiser than someone with a Master’s degree and thirty years on the job.

Take everything that is given you and study it for yourself. Ask the authority figure. Read as much as you can. Trust you own intuition. Talk to people you trust. Try it yourself. Do it all.

Ask the doctor why you should take this medicine. Ask what the benefits and side effects are. Look up your condition yourself and learn what the cause is. Do what you can to get and stay healthy – quit smoking, eat more vegetables, drink more water. Go for a walk every day. Move more, sit less.

Ask the teacher why you need to learn this lesson. Get your own books and read more about it – or anything else. Don’t homeschool – supplement. Double up on your education.

Ask the minister, the politician, the lawyer. Ask everybody – and learn on your own as well.

This isn’t an either-or kind of thing. It is a yes-and. Use what we have, and more. Learn on your own, and listen to that inner voice. Be mindful, be awake.

To pull your kid out of school and try to teach him yourself is the blind leading the blind. To stop going to the doctor and just pray over your illness is to do the same. To grow your own food can be as insane as being your own lawyer – you don’t know what you are doing. You aren’t an expert.

It is just as dangerous to be submissive and passive as to be blindly self-supporting. There is a middle path.

A new take on sobriety.

Sobriety isn’t just about being off of drugs and alcohol. It is about being into life. And this is about life as it is, not as you were taught it should be.

It is about being awake, and conscious, and fully present. It is about being mindful of your actions and your life. It is about being truly alive.

It certainly isn’t about having a blissful life. So many people want that. Even if they don’t try to avoid pain by drinking or doing drugs, they’ll try to avoid it by staying in a job or a marriage that they hate, just existing. Or, they’ll try to avoid it by leaving the job or the marriage they hate, eternally trying to find the right something or someone who will make them feel better. Or at least feel. Notice it isn’t about staying or going – there is something in the middle.

In part, it is about accepting life as it is. It is about resetting your idea of what life should be. This isn’t about settling. This isn’t about living with a terrible situation. This is about not thinking that “Happy” and “Beautiful” and “Popular” are normal states of being all the time.

Everything changes. The only constant is change.

Don’t be a zombie. Zombies aren’t alive. You can be one of the living dead and still have a pulse. Zombies just exist through their lives. Even if we don’t self-medicate with drugs or alcohol, we can cease to be alive by watching TV, or by being glued to our computers or cellphones.

Zombies don’t go for their goals. They don’t try to fulfill their dreams. What is it that you most want to do? I don’t mean “make a million dollars” or “go to Paris” or “be famous”. I mean – what is it that you were put on this Earth to do? Is it “write a book about paramecium” or “teach teenagers how to play guitar”? What is your gift that you need to give to the world? What is it that is your special thing that you and only you can do? Do that.

What will make you come alive, what will make you be truly sober, is discovering the thing that is your gift, and then giving it. It isn’t about being selfish. Making a lot of money and being famous are about receiving, not giving.

It is about taking responsibility for your choices and decisions. It is about making a choice and sticking with it – not second guessing and waffling. It is also about admitting you were wrong if you made a decision that didn’t work out well. It is about learning from that and trying again.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer tells us in his book “Wishful Thinking : A Theological ABC” that your calling, your vocation, “is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.”

Ferris Bueller tells us “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”

It’s that.

Plenty of people are sober, but they aren’t really alive. They don’t do drugs, but they don’t do life either. They sleep all the time when they are off work. They can’t stand being alone. They eat comfort foods and distract themselves with movies and read books to help them escape their meaningless lives. Meanwhile, the problems continue. And get worse. And they continue to escape.

Sobriety is about facing the pain, either head on or sideways. It is about living through it, and with it, and because of it. It isn’t easy, but it is the only sane thing to do.

Live. And live well. Don’t just exist. Be sober, completely.

The soul and the body – the rider and the horse.

The soul is the rider. The body is the horse.

A horse has a mind of its own, and will want to wander. It wants to veer towards the fun things, the pretty things. It gets distracted. It gets bogged down, lost. If left on its own, it will lead you astray.

The rider’s job is to learn how to get the horse to go where is best. The rider’s job is to make sure the horse has good food, enough exercise, and proper shelter.

If the rider takes good care of the horse and controls where it goes, the horse and the rider will both benefit.

If the rider lets the horse have control, lets the horse eat whatever it wants, and only takes the horse out when he wants to go somewhere, they will both suffer.

If the soul does not take care of the body, the body will be in charge. The soul will feel trapped. The soul will not be able to do what it needs to do. It will not be able to complete its mission.

Sometimes the horse is difficult. Sometimes it is headstrong and willful. Sometimes it has a genetic weakness. Sometimes it has a bad leg.

Sometimes the rider is inept. Sometimes the rider lets the horse take over, so they end up where the horse wants to go, but not where the rider wants to go. Sometimes the rider neglects to feed the horse healthy food and the horse isn’t able to go anywhere at all.

Blinders help. Training helps. Discipline helps. This requires constant, focused work. It is OK to ask for help – you don’t have to do it all on your own.

If you can’t control your cravings, then seek help in a therapist, minister, books, or friends. Find someone or something that helps you get back on track. Make sure you aren’t exchanging one crutch for another. Learn why you keep letting your body lead you astray, or what are you doing that isn’t nurturing it.

Where is your weakness? Dig down to the root. Where did you learn that flawed coping mechanism? Unlearn, to relearn. It is never too late to start over.

Asking for help is a sign of strength. It means that you want to get stronger. It is the only way out of that hole. You’ve tried to do it yourself and failed. This is part of the test. Pride will kill you.

Every lesson is repeated until learned. You will stay in this body until you can’t learn any more from it. Then you will leave it. You may come back to try again, or go further.

Death is realizing that this body can’t get you where you need to go. Sometimes you don’t have the tools. Sometimes the body isn’t strong enough, and you don’t know how to get it that way.