I must confess–some of my most enjoyable social interactions involve discussing my thoughts and ideas with bright individuals at someone's home over a scotch or vodka. [Scotch is my cold weather choice, vodka signals the time of light and warmth.]

Recently I was introduced to an elderly gentleman [details changed] who as a tretired physicist for IBM. He was originally from Spain and dressed in a jacket, tie, vest and pocket handkerchief.  Very proper and very much in line with his background and demeanor. His accent, although at times difficult to penetrate, was charming.

At some time in the conversation, my book and interests came up. [ They usually do].  As a scientist the Physicist [I'll call him]  voiced objection to 'believing' anything that wasn't scientifically proven or at least provable. 

I discussed my collection  of "evidence"  based on large numbers of extraordinary experiences of otherwise normal individuals which I found impossible to dismiss without investigation.  I invoked the memory  of William James who was open-minded enough to do so one hundered years ago.

I also discussed my belief that what we now refer to as supernatural may very likely be natural.   We just can't explain it.  After all, I noted, several quantum theory concepts are essentially 'irrational' to the average mind–even to physicists themselves.  They don't quite make sense, yet are scientifically verifiable.  .Other contemporary theories in contemporary physics seem to be beyond scientific experimentation [multiple universe theory] but remain the belief of many.

The Physicist then seemed to recall an experience from his distant past.  He proceeded to describe it as if dusting off some old hidden relic from the  back shelf of his mind.

" Over fifty years ago, in Spain, a group of young fellow physicists decided to investigate the claims of ' Dr. Cortez'  who, it was claimed, could 'see' through his fingers.  He was willing to meet with the five of us and to demonstrate his psychic ability.  We had to  bring a book of our choice and completely wrap it in paper.  Then he allowed us to cover his eyes with several lay ers of eyeshades, cloth, handerchiefs.  We made sure there was no way for him to see.  Then we watched as he ripped open the wrapping around the first book.  We were spell-bound as he opened the book, flipped through several pages and stopped.  Amazingly he randomly pointed to a word or sentence and began to 'read'.  We could not believe it but it happened.  When he opened my book he noted that there was no word under his finger but a symbol.  It was the end of a chapter.  I can't explain what happened, but I still remember it like it happened yesterday".

I just smiled.

SPRING IS “COMING”……. ALL OVER US !–Our Sexual Universe

You don't need a metaphysician to tell you that this is Spring and pollen is everywhere.  Watery, red eyes, sneezing, coughing, stuffed sinuses……. What about cars, windows, streets covered with yellow 'dust'. 

We forget that this is all about SEX!!  Keeping this real for the layman–trees are 'coming' all over everyone.  Airborne reproduction means that most deciduous trees produce gazillions of sperm in the form of pollen and literally try to impregnate the world.

They have no idea that 99.99% will not result in fertilizing their fellow trees of the correct species and variety.  It just doesn't matter. 

While we're complaining–trees are having fun.    At least I hope so!

END OF LIFE CHOICES–Convergence of Money & Morality

There seem to be very few instances where the doing the 'right' thing coincides with a financially beneficial decision as well.  We usually consider the two forces to move in opposite directions.  Donating to charity, spending money on health care for the poor and disabled, providing for those who cannot care for themselves, all cost someone  money.  It may be personal donations or tax expenditures, but someone has to pay.

However, when it comes to end of life issues, the highest ethical decisions actually save society money.  And furthermore, these dollars can be re-directed to assist those who fall into the categories mentioned above.

The New York Times addressed this in a recent article entitled The New Old Age: At the End of Life, Denial Comes at a Price.  I agree that what we tend to do as a society and as individuals is to deny that the issue exists,  We choose to avert our eyes, bury our heads and wish the problem away.  It IS painful to discuss the choices we make at the end of life when it deals with our loved ones.

This is perhaps the first time in human history where such ethical and moral and emotional decisions have to be faced.  Even twenty-five years ago, medical technology could not offer the array of testing, technology and drugs that are part of today's ordinary way of practicing medicine.  We have the ability to keep the physical body "alive"–but at what price and for what reason?

  There is so much more that we CAN do to patients. Yet we MUST begin to make the difficult decisions of what care should be withheld.  Billions of dollars of precious health care dollars are WASTED in the last few months of life.  And I am now  speaking about those who have reached the "end game".   These are no longer functioning human beings.  They are often suffering from terminal diseases.  There minds are no longer present.  They have entered that slippery slope that cannot be reversed or even stabilized.  Yet we desperately try to do so by ordering tests, performing procedures, and using medications.

I do not believe it is cruel or inhuman to allow the dying process to proceed when it is clear that it is unstoppable.  The decision cannot be made on emotional grounds

 Decisions now are often made by physicians and family members.  I need to point out that many of my colleagues impose their own ethical and moral attitudes on these type of choices. And most physicians have not even dealt with their own personal issues with death and dying.   Sadly I also suspect that some regard decisions to withhold care as financially detrimental to their practices. 

I believe that the decision to offer "comfort care" or "palliative care" should be a joint decision between a team of professionals including nurses, physicians, clergy, ethicists  with definite family input.  But family members themselves cannot dictate the plan of action.  The emotional turmoil involved at this stage is often too difficult to overcome and families often disagree among themselves what they want to occur.

Unfortunately, the wishes of the individual who is dying are often disregarded.  Health care proxies and directives are frequently ignored when the patients are at end of life.

I have often asked distraught families to make their decisions regarding feeding tubes and further testing with the best interests of their loved ones in mind—not their own.  Making a decision to withhold further testing when it offers no hope of help–is an act of love.

Palliative, end of life care is NOT euthanasia.  We are not talking about "Kevorkian like" behavior either.

As a society we need to make peace with death.  Whether we turn to religious and/or spiritual beliefs for assistance or whether we merely face the reality of death……to deny this fundamental aspect of living is foolish and detrimental to our society as a whole.

 We need to have public debate and discussion regarding this issue.  I would like to see media giants such as Oprah deal with this topic openly and frequently.  It is clearly emotionally charged and controversial.  But it will not go away.  Clearly it will only increase as our aging population of baby boomers approach the inevitable. 

Not only is withholding certain medical care at end of life the right ethical, financial and spiritual action—it is often the loving choice as well.


ON BECOMING A HEALER– Kabbalah & Tikkun

A physician is not a healer–until there is an awareness…. 

During my seven years of training before entering private practice, the notion that I might be a healer  never arose.

  The term seemed too archaic, unscientific, even verging on shamanistic or fraudulent.  After all the only kind of "healers" I had heard about were "faith healers" and we all 'knew' that they were fakes.

It was only  after I began to explore Kabbalistic notions of how the universe came into being  that tikkun  or healing  began to have meaning to me.

According to the cosmology  of 16th century Kabbalist Rabbi Isaac Luria the  universe came into existence when the Creator, known as Ein Sof [the unknowable] decided to withdraw Its energy,[tzimtzum]  thereby creating a vacuum into which the physical universe could emerge.

According to this metaphor, Ein Sof emanated a beam of energy which filled primitive " vessels" known as sephirot.   Only three vessels were capable of holding this energy.  Six others shattered and spilled their holy sparks of 'God-substance'.  Much was reabasorbed, but that which fell into the newly created physical world became covered with shells, kelippot. Evil entered the world through the presence of kelippot  as well, implying that redemption exists within the core of evil.   A tenth sephira connected the sephirot [known as the Tree of Life] to the physical world.

This shattered  physical universe seemed to be a catastrophe.  How and why could this occur?  The answer that Kabbalists have supplied is this–humankind is offered the opportunity to help repair, heal, rectify and further the Divine plan.  To heal means to "make whole"  and raising holy sparks becomes humanity"s greatest challenge and greatest opportunity.

This can occur through the performance of good deeds [mitzvot] and following the commandments.  Interpretations clearly differ as to how rigorous the 'rules' of Judaism need to be followed.  But clearly the ethical and moral teachings are available to one and all.  Charity, acts of kindness, humility, gratitude, awareness and joy are therefore tools by which to perform these acts of tikkun.

So in effect, Kabbalah taught me that we are all healers.  We all  can perform acts of tikkun.  These deeds serve two major purposes.  They allow us to heal ourselves [tikkun ha nefesh] and to heal the world [tikkun ha olam].  Through exercising our free will choices we can help our fellow beings on this planet.  In doing so, in addressing the needs of others, we are simultaneously healing our own spiritual deficiences.

It became clear to me that my patients were far more than their physical complaints and conditions.  They were complete beings with emotional and spiritual components as well.  Failure to consider these others aspects would make healing unlikely.  By recognizing all aspects of the individual who sat in my examinattion room, by expressing understanding, compassion and caring as well as dispensing medical knowledge, I could  legitimately  claim the title of healer.

Healing is not identical with curing. To me it means guiding another towards reconciling their physical, emotional and spiritual selves.  Finding serenity amidst a sea of suffering is healing.  At times this may mean making peace with a chronic illness, even one that is inevitably leading to one's  death.

In this way, Kabbalah has offered me the awareness, offered me the permission to be —a healer.



HOW TO BE AN “INTEGRATIVE” PATIENT–floating in a sea of information & confusion

Practicing medicine has never been more challenging, being a patient has never been more confusing.

On a daily basis in my practice of Gastroenterology I am confronted with patients who offer me offerings  obtained from the internet with questions and anxieties regarding the latest "Information". 

This approach  to health care opens up opportunities for expanding the 'Integrative" approach to healing.  As a physician I am challenged to answer the questions, make sense of the assertions that are offered, and become a voice of "reason" amidst all the confusing, conflicting material.

I welcome this opportunity. But part of the initial challenge for me is remain open to all new material while imploring the patient to follow m y line of reasoning as I respond. A reasoned, integrative attitude incorporates an ultimate evaluation of the risk and benefit of each and every treatment decision.

I find that some patients have already decided that what they have read is correct, regardless of my comments and thoughts.  I do try to gently remind them that although they may be extremely intelligent and capable of reading medically-related writing, they are not completely capable of discerning truth from fiction.

There is much on the internet which IS reasonable and rational.  I will often respond by telling the patient that I need some time to investigate the new claim.  There is, I'm afraid, much mis-information which is cleverly written to seem rational.

In my particular field, the area that comes to mind is the claim that one can obtain meaningful weight loss by purchasing certain colon cleansing products.  This is complete, utter nonsense.  Yet it is cleverly couched in medical sounding terms and concepts.

My intention in this posting is -to begin to address the difficulties of practicing medicine today–on the part of the practitioner and the patient/consumer.

But I regard them as opportunities to integrate a more holisitc approach including what are known as mind/body, and alternative therapies. 

Hopefully we can all adopt an open-minded attitude in which the patient's thoughts and concerns are respected as well as physician's experience and expertise.

Facing an enormous sea of information what is required is a consensus approach,mutually chosen, which offers the patient the best hope of healing.


My extraordinary meeting tonight followed a rather extraordinary reading with a medium last week.  Immediately my Mother came through. It was unquestionably clear to me that it was my Mother.  She describe how she was before she died, my personality, certain particular aspects of my present life, my apartment in NYC including its location on the "3rd floor" and how near it was to Central Park.

Most impressive, however, was another 'energy' who was brought through–unquestionably my first cousin [my Mother's nephew]  who had committed suicide about seventeen years ago.  He was apologizing for his actions, stated that no one truly understood what was happening to him, and expressed regret over the status of one of his three children, a son.  This individual had been plagued with emotional and drug related issues for much of those seventeen years.  His uncle had all but given up on trying to intervene.  The young man seemed never to respond to any help previously given. 

The medium made it clear that my cousin could not 'move on' spiritually because he was concerned that this son might emulate him–even  follow his course of action.

I interpreted this reading as an offer for me to step forward and attempt an intervention.

I just finished meeting with the young man and his uncle, my cousin"s brother. 
I attempted to gently introduce the notion that there are much deeper dimensions to our lives, that suffering can be part of the process of evolving on the human plane, and that his  father's spiritual progress could be assisted by his own spiritual development.

I emphasized the power of choice, that free will is our greatest tool for transformation, but that no one else could make these choices for us.

The young man admitted to several highly realistic 'dreams' in which he seemed to be with his father in some kind of teaching situation.  He could clearly differentiate this dreams from ordinary ones.  I told him that these were true ADC's [after-death communications].  That they were true gifts of awareness and connection.. They should be honored as such.

He seemed genuinely buoyed by our encounter.  He seemed to have recently begun a relationship with a young woman and spoke positively of some career interests–helping others who have had similar problems.

We spoke together about why his father presented himself to me at this point in time.  The answer may be that he would have been unreceptive [his uncle's belief] at any time sooner.

Our meeting broke up.  I gave him a book. His uncle seemed more relaxed, even relieved.  He gave me a promise to keep in touch, and to follow through with his plans. 

I cannot be totally sure what will ensue from this meeting.  But I felt that in this moment I was fulfilling a karmic obligation for which I am particularly grateful– I was the messenger of hope.   

PASSOVER 2009–III –Why the Golden Calf ?

When thinking about what to say at last night's Seder meal, the image of the Golden Calf came to mind.  The image, as with all Passover visuals, immediately recalls the film The Ten Commandments.

  But the question that all Bble students and readers must ask themselves was "why?"  Why should the Israelites, after being liberated from slavery in Egypt, after being led through the desert by Moses, after being 'supported' by manna from Heaven, protected by a vortex of wind and light, follow the lead of some who didn't trust Moses and led to the creation of a Golden Calf, an idol, an abomination, an affront to Yaweh.

It was perhaps the same impulse that led some to repudiate Moses during the wanderings in the desert, to question his leadership and their decision in leaving the security of Egyptian life, even of slavery, to risk their lives in the uncertainty of the desert.

Perhaps the impulse to build the Golden Calf, to criticize Moses in the desert arose frrom the same source–FEAR–fear of the unknown.

Fear is a powerful force that inhibits change. Fear of the uknown can keep us prisoners of our own present–even if that present is ultimately harmful to us.

It takes immense courage to make change in our lives.  We can easily reject our own inner wisdom which directs us forward.  All change is frightening.  The 'devil' we know is familiar to us, even if it is ultimately a trap which keeps from moving forward.

Perhaps it was fear rather than lack of appreciation that led to the seemingly irrational actions of the Israelites in the desert.  But we should not forget the power of fear to impair us in our own personal journeys. 

In effect we are sabotaging our own best interests, preventing us from reaching our highest potential.

PASSOVER 2009–II — a time of ambivalence

Yesterday's posting spoke to the complex and confounding notion of compassion for one's 'enemies'.  After all the Hebrews had been subjected to 400 years of slavery, their first-born males had been hunted down for drowning and they had been denied exit visas from the land of Egypt.

Clearly the ceremony of withdrawing a drop of wine for each plague the Egyptian's suffered is filled with ambivalence.  In this case, the 'higher' emotion of compassion outweighs the 'lesser' but deeply felt desire for revenge.

But there is another more immediate feeling of ambivalence which accompanies the holiday.  Because Passover is so intensely experienced  as a family celebration, the awareness and sense of loss of deceased loved-ones is even more acutely felt.

Perhaps an awareness that love never truly dies, that our loved-ones are with us, will support us at such times of ambivalent emotions.

PASSOVER 2009- I–goblets of wine, drops of compassion

Another Passover has arrived.  During the Seder the story of slavery, brutality,and redemption is repeated as it has for millenia.

The Passover story is one of struggle and violence followed by escape and redemption.  But brutality and violence is clearly an inherent aspect of the narrative.  The Israelites were made into slaves under Pharaoh who then decreed that the first born Hebrew males were to be cast into the river.

The Passover saga evokes violence: the unequivocal violence of forced servitude, the slaying by Moses of  the Egyptian taskmaster, the horrific ten plagues 'visited' on the Egyptians who only relented when their own first born were destroyed. 

And yet there is one ritual during  the Seder which  I have always found to be profoundly moving.  It involves the drop by drop removal of wine from a full goblet as each of the ten plagues is recited.

The clearly stated reason–that despite the horrors of slavery brutally imposed upon the Hebrews by the Egyptians  "we do not rejoice in their suffering".  A full cup is a sign of complete joy.  Removing a drop of wine for each plague acknowledges the suffering of the Egyptians.

Human beings exel at the ability to demonize, to de-humanize our 'enemies'.  This is the basis for all genocide, torture and killing in war. These drops of compassion should be a reminder that we don't have to view our 'enemies' that way. 

They can serve to remind us that we are all the same, that when any one of us is wousnded we all suffer.

This a Passover message worthy of repetition.

“LET ME CALL YOU SWEETHEART….” When a Medium’s Message Is for Themselves As Well

The following experience is real.  I offer it for your consideration.

I personally know the medium, Stacey and her Client Jane [not her real name].  Stacey recently emailed me this exchange that occurred recently.  It involved her own personal family trauma–the death of her mother after a long illness.  She was discussing with her father Dave [not his name] his difficulty dealing of his  loneliness. He had devoted himself totally during the preceding nine years that his wife was ill. He agreed and was open to meeting other people  Stacey recalls that during such conversations, she would 'see' Jane's image in her mind. She 'knew' that there was a reason why this occurred and set up a meeting between her father Dave and Jane.

She then described what Jane told her:   'Your father and I got along from the moment we met.  There was an instant connection and we decided to go on a date.  Again it was amazing.  Your father spontaneously began to sing 'Let me call you sweetheart, I'm in love with you'  and it was so touching that it brought tears to my eyes.  In fact the more I thought of it, I began to shake all over. 

The next day I went back to the CD you had made when I had my reading with you.  You mentioned that exact song and associated it with Dave.  We both assumed THE  Dave was my deceased husband Dave.  But I couldn't make any sense of this connection at the time.   Now I realize what you were telling me.  IT WAS THE RIGHT SONG, BUT IT WAS YOUR FATHER, DAVE THAT IT REFERRED TO."