One of our contemporary curses is the the propensity to multitask.  We all do it, or at least believe that we do.  But do we really?  Are we truly capable of performing more than one task at a time?

Despite our 'wishful' thinking, the answer is NO.  Neuroscience has confirmed that we do not multitask.  Essentially we rapidly jump from one activity to another.  The more we 'practice' the quicker our transitions from one to another.  But we do not truly multitask.

The major metaphysical issue with multitasking is that is runs contrary to a mindful  approach to living.  Mindfulness speaks to the ability to be present in every moment.  It is the notion that we exist only in that moment in which we are aware of precisely what we are doing, tasting, feeling.  Nothing else exists in that moment and we are at one with the universe.

When we try to multitask, therefore, we totally deny the power of mindfulness.  We actually are not living in that moment.  We create some sort of limbo in which awareness is diffused, jumping between two or more activities.

Instead of living in bright, clear colors, our impatient shifting back and forth results in a blur of colorless gray.

Besides the fact that danger lurks in our inability to be aware.

So lets be more aware by not trying to multitask.  Easier said than done.

IBS — Mind / Body / Bugs

I rarely blog on medical diseases per se, but IBS [irritable bowel syndrome] is far more than a medical disease.

In fact it is the archetypal mind/body/spirit condition which afflicts millions.  In the past I have referred to it as a panic attack of the gut.  Although not 'serious' in the traditional sense of life-threatening or pre-cancersous, it can certainly make the lives of those affected  quite misserable.

In general, individuals with IBS have hypersensitive guts.  They feel more of their body's internal movements, the gaseous distension, the peristaltic contractions than a 'normal'.   I have often noted that they have a 'Princess and the Pea' gut–they feel everything.

But more than feeling, they experience!  Diarrhea, constipation and lovely combinations of both.

But besides the genetics and emotional connections with IBS, something new has been added to the mix–bacteria.

When reports in the medical literature about the role of intestinal flora [bacteria] first appeared, I was skeptical.  This seemed to add an element of confusion to an already baffling condition.

Do patients with IBS have abnormal bacterial contents in their colons [where gazillions of bacteria normally reside] ?  Does the normally sterile small intestine experience an invasion of bacteria and does this contribute to the condition?

At any rate I now believe that 'bugs' do contribute to IBS.  My opinion arises not merely from scientific studies [always to be taken with a grain of salt ] but from my own patients and their response to probiotics.

Probiotics have usually been associated with the 'alternative' world of treatment.  No longer. They have been scientifically studied and one in particular–bifidobacterium infantis–does work.  My patients are clearly responding.

Researach has also shown that a nonaborbable antibiotic marketed as xifaxin aslo works.

So now I am treating IBS with both–a probiotic and antibiotic.  The antibiotic for short term, the probiotic, long term.

Somehow the bugs affect the bowel's response to stress.  Not sure how but I'm continuing to explore the underlying mechanisms.

The delicate balance of elements that comprise who we are—astounding.

The Sanford/Spitzer/Clinton/Patterson…..oh hell, The King David Syndrome–Why Powerful Men Cheat

Long title for a fascinating topic.  Why do powerful men risk everything for sex with women who are not their spouses? 

As a student of human nature [who isn't?] this is a compelling conundrum.  Powerful men are usually extremely bright, ambitious, perhaps devious and demonically driven to achieve their goals.  Yet time and again since the beginning of our species, they have risked it all for forbidden sexual pleasure.

Is there anyway to make sense of this?  So much to lose and y et over and over again, this seemingly irrational behavior leads to an implosion–the loss of it all.  Of course it doesn't always lead to complete self-destruction.  King David is still considered one of the greatest of Biblical kings.  Chrisitan theology traces the ancestry of Jesus to him as well.  Still, he paid an enormous "price" with the death of a beloved son.  So the Bible does offer "karmic" consequences for our actions.

Perhaps it has something to do with the availability of desirable and willing females.  [I can hear the boos already].  But in truth, ordinary unattractive men who are not rich and famous have far less temptation in their path. Woman may find themselves equally driven to rich and famous men with a subliminal drive that defies rational behavior as well.  In truth, its a bit easier to point to finger at others when we don't have to face the potential of 'turning down' sexually provocative partners.

Perhaps it is just a poor excuse for moral weakness.  We should know better and particularly those who have the most to lose from the activity.

Perhaps it is a case of 'temporary insanity'. This is also not a popular explanation for such behavior. But human beings ARE physical beings.  We have great trouble with utilizing will power to aler compulsive behavior all the time–eating, drinking, drugs, gambling etc.

The sexual drive is so primal, affects such deep brain centers—perhaps they are out of the reach of our rational control.  Again, just playing devil's advocate here  Ultimately  we are not animals.  Being human requires this fascinating and complex balance between our animal and spiritual selves.

It is a constant battle that some of us  win–others lose. 

I doubt if this will ever change.

OVERCOMING DEATH–Caloric Restriction & a Personal Tale

In a follow-up to my prior blog posting I would like to relate a quick story about the ascetic approach tolongevity.  The recent articles and discussion regarding how caloric-restriction prolongs life reminds me of an anecdote from my days as a resident at Montefiore Hospital and Medical Center.

Back in the late 70's there was an excellent internist named Arthur Goldman.  I'm not sure if he is still in practice but my Google search suggests that he may be still practicing in Yonkers, NY.  At any rate Arthur treated hypertension and other metabolic conditions such as hyperlipidemia and diabetes through an extremely strict dietary regime. He exercised vigorously as well, I believe.

In many ways he was ahead of his time since subsequent physicians have also advocated extremely low sodium, fat and sugar intake.  In truth this type of diet can be extremely effective in battling certain disease states and prolonging life.

I do recall another attending physician who had a wry sense of humor.  His approach was less restrictive, more laid-back and much less ascetic. I have forgotten his name [? Marty Fierman?]  but I'll never forget his comments to Arthur Goldman.  "Arthur, your patients don't actually live longer, your diets just make them so miserable that it feels like they're living longer!"

Of course that was a rather cynical attitude.  I am sure that Arthur Goldman did help many, particularly those who could follow his regimen.

The point is that the ascetic approach does not work for everyone.  There are those who would choose to indulge in life's "risky"  pleasures at times and perhaps not live as long and as well as others. But  the pleasures they experience seem worthwhile to them at the time.

And in truth, even healthy patients die.

Now I don't want to address the areas of public health and public policy because there is truth to the notion that individuals who abuse drugs, alcohol and nicotine present health risks which he population as a whole often must pay for.  There is a matter of 'degree' when it comes to unhealthy behaviors.

My point is not to abandon healthy practices and lifestyles.  It is just a call for moderation in all things.  Living life to the fullest, being God's taste buds in the world, requires an open appreciation for the sensual and enjoyable.

The challenge for us all is finding the right balance. Few of us, I suggest, would choose a long but miserable life.


IS DEATH A DISEASE ?– a metaphysical perspective

Recent articles on prolonging life have focused on caloric restriction and several 'anti-rejection' drugs.  The underlying proposition as advocated by British geneticist Aubrey de Grey is that "death is a disease" and should be regarded as "treatable".

Granted, the medical profession has dedicated itself to the prevention, treatment and cure of disease states whose consequence is the prolongation of life and subsequently reducing the average age at death.  Any walk through an old cemetery with particular attention to the age of death will quickly convince the dubious that much improvement has been made in this regard.

But on a deeper metaphysical level, the perception that death itself is the enemy is just plain wrong. 

Life is miraculous because it defies the fundamental laws of thermodynamics.  Organized states tend to 'run down'.  Concentrations of energy tend to dissipate. It takes a tremendous amount of energy for any living thing to even exist.  Life is based on the ability to exist in the face of the basic laws of entropy.  It does so at a cost. In truth, life is the anomaly, not death.

 Despite anyone's best efforts, biological process eventually exhaust themselves.  The mechanisms which helped the first seed of life develop into a mature organism eventually fails and death ensues.

Life is like a play.  It has a dramatic arc –a beginning, middle and end.  This is not a tragedy.  It just reflects the nature of reality.

Life has evolved because organisms have a limited time here.  Make way for the new and different and hopefully improved model.  Without death, we would not be here either.

And death is not always the enemy.  When life is unbearable, when suffering predominates over contentment, when the fruits of life cannot be tasted, when dementia clouds the consciousness and obliterates who that person was—than death can be a blessing.

There is also a misunderstanding of the nature of reality among those who dream of prolongation of life at any cost.  It ignores the nature of the soul–the immortal element which animates all living beings.  Death reflects the body's demise–it was never to be anything more than the vehicle for our soul's journey during any particular lifetime.

So, medical research must continue to seek the end of suffering [as the Buddhists noted] and in doing so, in challenging diseases, will likely improve the quality and duration of life. 

But is death itself a disease which can be conquered?  Clearly, not.









We live in a culture which exalts doing.  Often the first question anyone asks a newly introduced stranger is "What do you do?"  The answer then sets off an immediate set of connotations about who that person is, their education, their income, their influence etc.  We may immediately become 'impressed' with the stranger, or likewise immediately judge them to be less 'worthy' of our attention–all based on what they do.

This topic came to mind after my wife introduced herself to a woman at a social gathering.  She was a  'friend of a friend'  and it seemed appropriate for my wife to speak with this woman about their common acquaintance.  This woman, a virtual stranger, immediately began expounding upon her own career, what she was doing, how successful she was with hardly any mention of the woman my wife and she had in common.  I was an outright display of 'bragging' and rather inappropriate.
I so happens that the woman they know in common is tremendously 'accomplished' in her personal life and career, yet rarely does she talk about herself in any similar manner.

 I suppose this has much to do with the competitive nature of our culture.  We are each seeking to define ourselves on some level, above or below someone else.  Yet the basis of this comparison which some determine to be of ultimate importance, is based on flawed principles.

What we do does define us in some way.  But it does not tell anyone about who we truly are.  Our 'being' is much more subtle that our 'doing'.  The qualities of kindness, compassion, caring, loving, giving–those spiritual elements that most would agree are of ultimate metaphysical value, often have nothing to do with what we do.

Certainly they can go hand in hand.  But very successful business people, politicians, physicians, entrepreneurs, entertainment celebrities etc. can be simply 'awful' human beings. Likewise, those who have much less 'impressive' jobs or perhaps none at all, may be fantastic human beings.

The two may coincide.  When that occurs, it is certainly desirable.  Yet it is important to realize the difference.  Human being and human doing are not the same thing.


July 8, 2009  New York Times article on CONVENT SISTERS FACE DEATH WITH DIGNITY AND REVERENCE by Jane Gross appropriately addresses the fundamental question of death and dying.  It describes the common sense approach that many of the elderly and chronically ill sisters adopt at end of life.  Few opt for major testing, intensive medical or surgical therapy.  They are peace with the process that is both unavoidable and completely natural–namely death.

I have written previously on this subject and will continue to do so.  The metaphysically aware are fully cognizant of the obvious–that death is the term we use for the end of life.  Just as each life has a beginning it must have an end.  The real question is why we have so much trouble accepting this obvious truth.

Of course we all know why death is so difficult to accept.  Yet failure to do so only makes its eventuality that much more traumatic for those left behind.  Recognizing the inevitability of any of life's events allows us to deal with them in a more peaceful and healthy state of being.

It is this failure to acknowledge the obvious that leads to over-testing, over-medicating and inflicting unnecessary procedures on those who are at end of life.   We need to 're-frame' our notions of death.  It is not a disease.  It may be caused by a disease, or it may be merely the term for the failure of the body to continue all those amazingly integrated processes of living.

Those of us who have a belief in survival of the soul after death seem much more able to accept this inevitability. 

I applaud the article and all attempts to bring our awareness to this issue which is often kept hidden.  It is more than the right time to pull our heads out of the sand and face what cannot be denied.


I did not  want to offer commentary re: the preceding blog on the same posting.  I wanted the power and beauty of it's content to stand alone.  Yet I do feel that some thoughts are in order.

It is a statement of Buddhist philosophy which some in the Western world might find troubling.  We are so attuned to action and defiance of all of life's experiences that some might find the prayer too passive and accepting of one's fate.  The 'never give up' mentality is a part of our tradition.  Also the notion of 'fight, fight against the dying of the light' from the poetry of Dylan Thomas resonates with most of us.

To my understanding, the prayer need not lead one into total passivity, nor does it accept life's adversities without robust response.

In a manner similar to the traditional SERENITY PRAYER it does speak of 'wisdom' and 'courage'.  Courage implies that human activity is a necessary aspect of our lives.  We don't have to accept sickness and suffering passively.  We are capable of reacting and being proactive in our lives in order to reduce our own suffering and those of others.  It is our main 'role' in any incarnation–reducing the suffering of all sentient [feeling] beings.

The power of the prayer is in the acceptance of 'what we cannot change', to paraphrase from the the SERENITY PRAYER. 

It is in this acceptance, when all possible human actions have been attempted, that ultimate healing can take place. 

There is a time when we all die and those we love will die.  It will be a tremendously sad occurrence.  But failure to accept this reality will itself only perpetuate suffering.

This, I believe, is the power of this prayer.  May it reduce the suffering of one and all. 


I rely on you, Buddhas and Bodhisattvas,
Until I achieve enlightenment.
Please grant me enough wisdom and courage to be free from delusions.
If I am supposed to get sick, let me get sick.
And I'll be happy.
May this sickness purify my negative karma
And the sickness of all sentient beings.
If I am supposed to be healed, let all my sickness and confusion be healed,
And I'll be happy.
May all sentient beings be healed
And filled with happiness.
If I am supposed to die, let me die,
And I'll be happy.
May all the delusion
And the causes of suffering beings die.
If I am supposed to live a long life, let me live a long life,
And I'll be happy.
May my life be meaningful
In service to sentient beings.
If my life is be cut short, let it be cut short,
And I'll be happy.
May I and all others be free
From attachment and aversion.