Meditation on compassion

I developed this over a period of time; it’s based on a Wiccan morning blessing ritual.  I modified it to fit my needs and it has changed remarkably over time.  I no longer even know what the original said to be able to direct you to it.  It is also derived from a Buddhist meditation on compassion.  I combined them in order to remind myself to have compassion for others and myself.

I am not Wiccan, they are based too heavily on Christianity and rely too greatly on Christian concepts of morality regarding things on which I have a rather different view.  I know many may disagree but that is my firm opinion.  My personal spirituality derives more heavily from Buddhism although I don’t believe that the ultimate goal of life is to cease and go to Nirvana.  I personally think the goal of religion – relinking – is to settle oneself more firmly in the world, to find balance and contentment through being of service and providing for both one’s own and community needs.

Anyway.  My daughter in law seems to be struggling so I sent her this.

Blessed be my eyes, that they might see reality.

Blessed be my ears, that they might hear the truth.

Blessed be my lips, that they might speak truth with love and compassion.

Blessed be my arms, that they might be strong for one who needs them.

Blessed be my hands, that are capable of creating many things.

Blessed be my legs, that they may carry me through life.

Blessed be my body which is a temple for my spirit.

Blessed be this day for it gives me possibilities.

May I have compassion for all beings.

May I have compassion for myself.

Blessed be.

I think winter may be here.

It comes perhaps a little early for us this year.  We usually have a freeze Halloween weekend and I think of that as the end of my big gardening year — it’s the end of the canning and freezing of most of our crops like peppers, tomatoes, eggplant, and beans for sure.  The rhubarb has given up the ghost though my chrysanthemums are still convinced that now is the time for peak blooms.

This year, though, has been different.  The tomato plants under the sunscreen cloth are still alive; we harvested another 5 pounds and sauced them only last week.  These plants, until last night, were not only alive but still blossoming – a really strange thing to happen in our area of the high desert.  Mr. TF harvested figs on Friday afternoon; there are still unripe figs on the the tree, sadly, that I don’t think are going to make it to ripeness before they are destroyed by the frost.

We get four seasons, and we get snow, though our snow at our particular location usually comes in April, not December, and lasts no more than a week.  If we go 30 miles into the nearest town of any size, the snow starts in December though there too it melts off and returns in fits and starts until April.  My little Meyer lemon tree was brought into the house last night; it was 36 at 10 pm with a surety of getting cold enough to freeze the poor thing to death.

We had a windfall this year, literally.  Last winter a storm came through that killed a couple smaller trees on the property next door, and broke large branches off the mature trees that weren’t killed outright.  This spring, the new owner was planning to cut all of it down and take it to the dump.  Instead, I spent several days cutting the smaller stuff by myself for kindling, and both Mr. TF and I spent a couple more cutting the larger stuff with the chainsaw.  We gained perhaps a a little more half cord of wood for the cost of our labor and a little fuel. For those of you in much colder climes, this is a laughable amount.  For us though, we are careful about not overheating the house and it represents more than a quarter of our winter use.

We have lit the wood stove twice in a row and lit it a week earlier than we usually do.  My personal goal is to hold out on lighting it until the temperature in the house is 59 or less.  DH is a cave bear and that is fine with him – he would sleep with open windows in the bedroom year round if I weren’t the mean wife who puts her foot down about waking with frost on the bed covers (and having to strip to shower when it’s that chilly).  It was 58 in the bedroom, on the shady side of the house, at 1030 this morning, and 63 on the sunny side.  It was a brisk 48 outside.  I think the evening lighting of the stove may be with us for the duration of the season.  It’s both a sad thing and a happy thing.  Sad because the bulk of the garden is officially put to sleep, and happy because I look forward to the comforting wisps of smoke rising from the chimney when I’m the last one home on a cold night.    100 thousand years of humans on this world and we still take comfort in the flames and heat rising from a well seasoned log of wood.   Mr. TF is convinced that the quality of  wood heat feels different; he may be right, in that it satisfies not only our need for heat, but a certain primal need to see those flames perform their ever changing dance.  Installing this wood stove was nearly over the tipping point for DH’s tolerance for me and my ideas, but it has turned out to be a blessing both in the material sense and the spiritual as well.  Winter may be here, but we are well prepared.  It’s a good feeling.

New Cholesterol Guidelines. Guess what? Basically EVERYONE is supposed to take statins!

If you believe the new guidelines, that is.  The complete work group report from the American Heart Association is available for free if you click on the link.

I find problems with this report, and the new guidelines that have been making news here and here and here.

For one thing, out of 15 authors, 7 have a financial relationship with the pharmaceutical industry, whether by being consultants for them, stockholders, or basically being employed by them in the capacity of having their research for the drug companies funded by the drug companies.  One of these has a SIGNIFICANT financial relationship (their words, not mine) AND is a co-chair of the study, which means they direct what research is included and how the information is used.  These are the same research studies used for the new guidelines…no conflict there, nope not at all, move along, nothing to see here…

For another thing, fully half of the expert reviewers of the guidelines ALSO have ties to the pharmaceutical industry.  ALL of them, guideline authors/researchers and reviewers alike, have their ties within the past year!!

These guidelines say that the focus should not be on numbers for lipid lowering, but on dosages for statins.  There are two basic categories:

  1. high risk people, who have diagnosed heart disease or other diseases like diabetes which puts them into the high risk category for heart disease.  These people should be on high dose statin therapy.
  2. people who do not have heart disease but have LDL-C (the bad cholesterol) levels of 70 – 189.  These people should be on moderate dose statin therapy.

The only two drugs approved for high dose statin therapy according to this work group report (new guideline) are:

  1. atorvastatin (Lipitor) at the dose of 80mg per day which is a wicked high dose, though they do include 40mg for those unable to tolerate 80mg, and
  2. rosuvastatin (Crestor) at the dosage of 40mg per day which is also a wicked high dose, though they also include 20mg per day for those unable to tolerate 40mg.

The rest of the statins are apparently OK for moderate dose therapy.  I think the key here is that they are no longer interested in absolute numbers, but in total percentage of bad cholesterol lowered.  Though they do cite numbers over and over again in the course of the review.  And, once again, though people with high triglycerides are KNOWN to have higher risk factors for heart disease and adverse events related to their heart disease, these numbers are basically completely ignored in favor of LDL-C, as though it were the only cholesterol that mattered.  In fact, it’s the only number that statins work on, which is why I think they focus so hard on it.

The third problem I have with this report is that they basically admit that statins’ cholesterol lowering effect is NOT what prevents adverse cardiac and stroke events!  What?? you say??  Yep, it’s true.  They state that niacin and fenofibrates (like gemfibrozil) lower bad cholesterol and improve good cholesterol but that they are not associated with reduced risk of events.  Which says, loud and clear, that whatever protective benefit statins have, it’s not because they are lowering bad cholesterol.

The new guidelines point out that taking a statin increases your risk for diabetes (and hemorrhagic stroke) with the risk being dose related.  So the higher your dose of statin the greater your risk for a head bleed or developing diabetes – which, by the way, greatly increases your risk for a heart disease related event like a heart attack.  And then they poo poo their own conclusions!

The new guidelines also didn’t include red yeast rice as a cholesterol lowering drug in their review.  They said there was only one Chinese study to look at that met their guidelines so they couldn’t make any recommendations.  Well, given that red yeast rice was pulled off the market for several years in the 90’s because it’s LOVASTATIN I think that’s kind of crap.  Red yeast rice is a naturally occurring form of a prescription drug, which is why they pulled it.  Don’t want competition now, do we?

I would like to point out myself, that cholesterol is produced by the body.  It is VITAL to many, if not most body processes.  It is necessary to stabilize cell membranes, it is necessary for proper nerve conduction, 25% of your body’s total cholesterol load is found in the brain.  It’s necessary for sex hormone production as well as other hormones.  Screwing with one’s ability to produce cholesterol screws with your muscles, your nerves, your sex drive, and your brain.  Anybody else notice the large increases in dementia over the past 20 years?  Kinda funny how that timeline is also when the first statin was introduced, isn’t it?

Finally, while the review does pay lip service to diet and lifestyle modification, they don’t recommend trying that first.  They now specifically recommend jumping straight to statin therapy, with diet and lifestyle modification as secondary prevention.  Eh??

Dr. Malcolm Kendrick has an interesting essay in which he makes the case for thrombus formation as the end point in a chain that involves cholesterol, but also stress, cortisol, and improper endothelial progenitor cell production.  He also references a booklet from Pfizer, copyright 1992, in which they ALSO make the same case.  Of course, this was a decade before they brought out Lipitor, so you won’t find that booklet anywhere now.  Lipitor is the number 1 selling drug in the world.  Why would they mess with a cash cow like that?

I found this essay by Stephanie Seneff, PhD, a senior research fellow at MIT.  It explains very well how cholesterol works in your body, how it’s produced, and how statins interfere with that process.  It’s no secret that I’m a much bigger proponent of proper nutrition and exercise than I am of drug therapy.  This paper is a clear explanation of what I already said – that as the research work group results show, reducing cholesterol isn’t why they protect against heart attack.  It’s not a peer reviewed paper published in a high quality journal, but this is not a paper that will EVER get published in something like JAMA simply because it goes against established paradigms and pharmaceutical interests.

So.  That’s my take on the new guidelines.  Take it or leave it, take statins or don’t, it’s your choice.  Just make sure you do your research and make an INFORMED choice.  I do think for some people the protective effects outweigh the potential (and likely) side effects.  But I don’t think that prescribing statins to upward of 30 million people, 1.5 million of which will suffer side effects from the statins, is warranted.

Duct Tape Politics (ObamaCare) 

Duct Tape Politics (ObamaCare)

I have been hospitalized four times in my life:  tonsils and adenoids, two of my three children (my last one was born at home), and tubal ligation.  I’ve been to the ER (for myself, that is) three times:  broken collarbone, when I fell down a flight of stairs (thanks, high heels) and sprained my ankle, and when I had pyelonephritis.  The only bill I had to pay from any of these was $50 for the ER visit for pyelo.  The rest were paid for by insurance, way back when insurance actually paid for those things (or I was a child and my parents paid).  So honestly I don’t have a lot of personal experience with our system from the point of view of the customer.  I do from the point of view of an uninsured person however, so this perspective from someone WITH *good* insurance, is sobering.