Category Archives: Health

Meditation for people who can’t, don’t or won’t meditate

Here’s a very quick & simple meditation that takes longer to explain than it does to do. Although it’s quick, it is still beneficial. Practiced regularly it will increase calm and promote presence.

This is based on the “One Breath Meditation”, so if you’ve seen that short video on social media, you’ll know what I’m on about. I will go into a little more detail which I hope will be useful.

The idea is to simply become present to wherever we are for the duration of one breath. Notice where you are, what you can see & hear, inhale & exhale normally. Done. Don’t struggle or try to grasp what’s there; just become present and allow the world to come to you. When it works, it’s effortless. It may happen immediately, or it may take a little practice, but soon you will experience, for as long as a breath lasts, the world seeming more real, more detailed. Have you ever watched TV or a film and the picture was out of focus or blurred, but you didn’t notice until it was corrected? The experience is a bit like that.

This meditation works very well while walking in the forest, in the park, on the beach, in whatever green space is available. It’s even useful while waiting in the supermarket checkout queue. I have found it impossible to be impatient or grumpy while present to the place. The only time it probably isn’t a good idea is when driving or operating machinery.

If practicing this while walking, notice your walking speed. How fast seems correct for becoming present to the place? You may find it’s a low slower than your usual pace. If you like, practice the one breath meditation several times on a walk.

Using turmeric to treat eczema

I’ve had eczema since childhood. The medics told me I’d grow out of it. I didn’t think to ask when. I’m 60 now and there is still awful dry, flaky skin around me ears. Until now, I’ve been using steroid cream as the only effective treatment. Recently, I read that there is some evidence for treating eczema with turmeric. According to study carried out for the BBC, the active compound in turmeric is best absorbed when heated in oil.

I’ve been taking a big teaspoon of turmeric once a week. I heat it in cooking oil and add it to my Huel vegetable protein. I’ve just re-read the BBC article and noticed they mention black pepper may be useful as well, so I’ll add that next time.

The results are very good with my eczema reduced by 90%. This obviously isn’t remotely like a proper clinical trial, it’s just an anecdote. It’s a nice safe experiment, though. Unless turmeric allergy is a thing. I’d like to come up with a way to take a smaller amount daily.

Training & practice: reaping the rewards

I noticed something rather lovely on Monday, something that’s been building for several years. I’m effortlessly happy, even in challenging situations. I was happy while waiting to see a vascular consultant about an ancient leg injury that’s limiting my mobility at the moment. A few years ago, I might have been resentful of the time waiting to see the consultant and the probable many months wait for surgery to improve my ruined knee. On Monday, without making any conscious effort, I noticed how kind the nurses were, how amazing the medical technology is compared to what was around when I injured my leg in 1977. The delight was easy and genuine. It’s the result, I think, of several years training and practice in several areas including NVC, Positive Psychology and mindfulness.

Last year, I completed an on-line Positive Psychology training course with Dr Chris Johnstone and Miriam Akhtar. The practices I learnt on the course were valuable, simple to use ideas like optimism, daily gratitude and savouring. I practice most days and they’ve become habit. It might seem that pessimists are most realistic and least likely to be disappointed, but evidence based studies have shown that optimists tend to be happier. Just so long as over-optimism doesn’t lead to extra risky behaviour or repeatedly attempting failed strategies.

Why am I so angered by homoeopathy?

I get angry, really angry when people try to press their opinion that homoeopathy is a form of medicine on me. And I get angry if someone tries to insist my preference for evidence based medicine is “just an opinion” and is just as valid as their opinion that homoeopathy is true.

I’m going to take a step back from the homoeopathy argument and concentrate on why I get angry when I hear it defended. Quite simply, homoeopathy and other forms of “evidence light” thinking scare me. My reason for finding these ideas so frightening is that I fear another dark age. There are signs of a desire for such an age everywhere; not just the theatrical barbarism of ISIS, but the science denying Christians, particularly in the USA.

According to a Wikipedia article on Age of Enlightenment, the Enlightenment began 300 years ago. Humanity began to shake off the horror of theocracy, to replace it with democracy and to prefer humanist values (which the church has sometimes tried to take credit for!). We began to do away with superstition, to embrace the scientific method and to look for evidence to support beliefs, or to discard those beliefs. This work isn’t complete and won’t be until religion has been cured. And the work is becoming a fight as the forces of darkness push back and claim the hearts and minds of many.

Any belief that has been shown to be incorrect, and this includes homoeopathy, but which people continue to cling to belongs with the dark side. As Voltaire said, “Those who can make you believe absurdities, can make you commit atrocities.”. Homoeopathy isn’t a harmless eccentricity, it’s an example of deluded thinking, a failure of reasoning and a symptom of an enthusiasm to descend back into darkness and ignorance. It’s as ghastly as religion and belongs in our past, our history, not the 21st Century.

If any homoeopathy enthusiast has read this far, please don’t try and persuade me with your anecdotal evidence or by raising your voice. I’m not impressed by your anecdotes and shouting doesn’t make you sound any less foolish. Show me the proper randomised trial (not the amateurish rubbish from Bristol). Don’t waste too much time looking for that trial — it doesn’t exist. And remember, in the immortal works of Carl Sagan, “extraordinary claims require extraordinary  evidence”. Make no mistake, the claim that homoeopathy is a form of medicine is extraordinary, and the evidence is pitiful.

References:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Age_of_Enlightenment Wikipedia article on Age of Enlightenment, viewed 25/12/15.

http://skeptico.blogs.com/skeptico/2008/01/extraordinary-c.html an informative article about the statement “extraordinary claims require extraordinary  evidence” which apparently didn’t originate with Carl Sagan.