Wednesday, August 29, 2007

PSYCHO KITTY Q'EST QUE C'EST?


First off, I’m in Montreal now at a Second Cup coffee shop listening to cute accordian music. If you’re anywhere on the East Coast of Canada from St. John's, Quebec on down to South Florida, please remember attendance is mandatory for the gig tomorrow. Here’s the info:

August 30, 2007 at 7 PM at McGill University’s Education/Counselling Psychology Department 3700 Rue McTavish Room 233

And don’t forget, there will be Zazen at Hill Street Center on Saturday Sept. 1st as regularly scheduled. But I won’t be there.

My very first Zen talks in New York City are done. Thanks to everyone who showed up. I think I spotted Aum Eye in the audience at the Interdependence Project thing on Monday night. Are you the one who asked a bunch of Yoga questions? A couple other readers of this here blog introduced themselves to me after the talk. Thank you for showing up!

The best of the three live gigs and two radio shows was definitely the Interdependence Project, although all of them were very cool. A couple of fellow Ohioans showed up at Bluestockings Radical Books in Soho and took me to a good place for Vietnamese sandwiches after. Thanks. One of Noah’s Dharma Punx showed me a great place to hang out and drink lemonade after the talk at the Interdependence Project. How come Noah never answers my e-mails? Granted I only wrote one and that was ages ago. But still. I woulda answered if he wrote me. Marc of Renagade Nation TV was also really friendly and showed me around town including a tour of the famous spots of Greenwich Village and his own very groovy office.

Anyway, it’s always really nice when people do stuff like this. I travel alone to these out of town gigs. No roadies, no drummer to pal around with. So it’s good to have somebody to talk to.

The Joey Reynolds Show on WOR was interesting, but I was sooooo sleepy I don’t think I was as “on” as I shoulda been for a show like that. The other show, "Soundcheck" on WNYC is already on line. Listen to it by clicking on this bunch of words here.

At the Greenwich Village Barnes and Noble the Q&A at the end was briefly hijacked by some Christians who wanted to make some points of their own. That was a bit odd. One guy was definitely there to speak up for Jesus. The woman near him was either trying to be nice to him or was also there for Christ. It was hard to tell. Neither of them were rude or anything. But that’s the first time I’ve encountered anything like that.

The only downside of the New York City gig was the vicious killer cat I had to share an apartment with. Now don’t get me wrong. I am very grateful to the woman who let me stay at her place. But man-o-man her cat was a total psycho. She was gone, so for the first night it was just me and kitty. He attacked me twice without the slightest provocation. But I could deal with that by just keeping a safe distance. The trouble came at night when he’d station himself outside the bedroom door and growl and hiss at me when I tried to make my way to the toilet. Because I drink about 12,000 liters of water a day this is a frequent occurrence.

The first night I managed to chase him away long enough to get into the toilet. But then he waited outside for me. I grabbed a plunger and jousted at him to hold him at bay long enough to get back to bed. The plunger worked OK that night. But the second night some other house guests showed up. Rather than risk several noisy cat confrontations each night I resorted to peeing into an empty water bottle. From this experience I learned that I can pee out 500 ml of nearly crystal clear piss over the course of a night. I think it’s sposta be a good sign if your pee is pretty colorless.

The third night I’d had enough of that. So I set up a barricade to keep the cat out of the area between the bedroom and the toilet. This would keep him away from his food dish for the night. But since I arrived back at midnight and planned to leave at five AM, I figured he’d survive the intervening five hours without dying of starvation. However my host’s other house guests (who I assumed were out that night) got very, very, very upset at the idea that the poor kitty cat might be deprived of food for an entire night and called the host to complain. I was kicked out for my cruel abuse of the sweet, darling, helpless, little fuzzy-wuzzy animal. Fortunately, the woman who’d set up my gig at the Interdependence Project lived down the hall and I was allowed to use her couch for the night.

Look. I like cats. I had a cat of my own named Shithead who cost me hundreds of dollars in vet’s bills and special food due to repeated kidney infections at a time when I was making about $200 a month at shitty Dimentia 13 gigs and temp work for Kelly Services (I exaggerate not, I swear). When I moved into Tim McCarthy’s Kent Zendo there were five cats in the place among the various members of the house. I even get along with my friend Nina’s cat Lilly who is also famous for attacking visitors but who seems to love me.

Whatever. As my publicist says, onward and upward!

I’m enjoying all the posture debate. As Smoggy Rob said, I never stop anyone from sitting in weird fucked up ways — including people who slump over like the Hunchback of Notre Dame after I've told them the point is to sit up straight and people who close their eyes even when I've said that in Zazen we keep them open and people who insist on putting their hands in bad imitations of gurus they've seen on TV after I've told them the right way to put their hands. Though I do discourage the use of chairs. Someone in NYC told me she went to a local Zendo there while eight months pregnant, and asked if she could sit in a modified posture or use a chair. They said, “No.” Just “No.” Not a word more. I don’t do that kind of stuff. But, seriously, 90% or more of the folks I see using chairs and seiza benches are just plain fuckin’ lazy. If you are really in a bad way and you sincerely want to sit somehow, accommodations can be made. But if you’re just a lazy sod, go someplace else. OK?

100 comments:

Mysterion said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Steev Deadman said...

Brad, I just wanna say thanks again for coming to NYC, your talk was bad ass. It's cool to read books and such but seeing someone speak in person is a whole different ball game. Seeing you do Zazen in person was much more better for me than reading out of a book. I liken it to the time I saw Jello Biafra speak live the first time, yea the guy has a ton of great ideas and such, but when you see his facial expressions and gestures, it makes it that much funnier and informative. As is the case with your talk.

As for the cat thing, I hate it when people say "poor little *insert animal here*" and throw out humans, I mean aren't we all the same? The cat would have been just fine, but it's the whole thing of action/reaction. Cat attacks Brad, Brad blocks cat from food, Cat hopefully learns lesson.. LOL.

Again, thanks for coming to NYC and giving that talk!

-s

DB said...

They kicked you out because you temporarily set up a barrier to protect yourself from the cat? Only someone whose priorities are seriously whacked would do that. No wonder the cat is such a terror. He knows he runs the place.

oxeye said...

Personally, I like to use cats and kittens stuffed under my legs when sitting zazen. It seems to me that no living person ever sits perfectly balanced anyhoo.. not even the inimitable chodo cross. It is about doing your best.. and nothing less. hope you are enjoying montreal.. it's a great town. go to Le Commensal vegetarian buffet near the queen elizabeth hotel. frigging awesome eats.

Anonymous said...

It just goes to show you, Meester Brad, you just can't please all kitties all of the time.
Psycho was making sure none of all of this goes to your head and makes you feel 'special'--to Psycho Cat--you are just a mere two legged mortal and dun't you forget it--you can leave, you and the two legs you full lotus with!

Mysterion said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

From the Zen Stories to Tell Your Neighbors site:
Ritual Cat
When the spiritual teacher and his disciples began their evening meditation, the cat who lived in the monastery made such noise that it distracted them. So the teacher ordered that the cat be tied up during the evening practice. Years later, when the teacher died, the cat continued to be tied up during the meditation session. And when the cat eventually died, another cat was brought to the monastery and tied up. Centuries later, learned descendants of the spiritual teacher wrote scholarly treatises about the religious significance of tying up a cat for meditation practice.

f. kwan said...

Dammit, Brad, you've got me feeling so guilty about this *sitting* shit that I went and bought an inflatable zafu from Carolina Morning. If I'm still in excruciating pain I've got a Buddhist physical therapist all lined up. IF that doesn't work, I'm going to go back to my chair. But now I have to worry about my *hands*? The little enso dealie with the twiddling thumbs together ain't kosher enough?

I'm going to whine until you come to Book People or one of those uppity joints in Austin and fix my posture in person.

f

Anonymous said...

Talking Heads---YEESSSSSSSSSSSSSS!

Anonymous said...

Glad your having fun and adventures on the BeHereNow pilgrimage, or rather the ShowUpOrBeCabbages tour.
Just don't go find yourself a fantastic day job
so far away--it'll mean a looooong commute to come sit with us and our crappy postures!

Anonymous said...

Inflatable zafu?!!
Could anyone who has used such an item please comment...do they really work?

Jinzang said...

Could anyone who has used such an item please comment...do they really work?

It's a zafu covering with a beach ball inside. It's designed for the travelling monk. It works passably well, but if you don't travel much, get a regular zafu or gomden. Or save yourself a few bucks and fold a blanket once lengthwise and twice widthwise and sit on that.

Jinzang said...

Oops. I mean once widthwise and twice lengthwise.

Ellen said...

Shithead the cat! Like in Steve Martin's The Jerk?

Thanks for the most excellent talk at ID project in New York.

And gratitude, too, for the admirable equanimity in the face of killer cat from hell. Maybe he'd make a good Japanese monster - has Ultraman ever fought a really psycho cat?

Anonymous said...

Our hero, forced to pee in a bottle by a house cat, lol.

Lone Wolf said...

Brad - The vision that bubbled up in my brain from the story you told about holdig the crazy cat at bay with a plunger is fucking hilarious.

To those who have real problems with sitting, Nishijima Sensee said, if I remember correctly, that making your zafu (or whatever your sitting on) higher may help. But one should always try to sit in either the full lotus or half lotus (I sit in the burmese posture myself because I'm fat, this is also acceptable).

Anonymous said...

Or, save yourself a few bucks and fold a cat once widthwise and twice lengthwise and sit on that.

Boonton said...

Two good events Brad, I was the one who asked the question about how long you should/can meditate at the ID project & was at Bluestockings (had you sign the book for my gf who...being very conventional...is treating this Buddhism stuff with a very suspect eye). I would have chatted with you longer but I didn't want to come off as a stalker or nutcase. Perhaps once you get on Oprah's Book Club you can travel with a posse of Buddhist Ninja Bodyguards!

Seriously, though, your down to earth style works very well. I've been to places where the teachers do what I like to call 'the spooky voice'. Sometimes it works but I think it too often is used to create the false impression that Buddhism is about having superhuman powers or that the teacher exists on some impossible to obtain plain of existence beyond the reach of us simple students.

They said, “No.” Just “No.” Not a word more. I don’t do that kind of stuff. But, seriously, 90% or more of the folks I see using chairs and seiza benches are just plain fuckin’ lazy. If you are really in a bad way and you sincerely want to sit somehow, accommodations can be made. But if you’re just a lazy sod, go someplace else. OK?

Well, they could have also said "mu" now couldn't they!

They call him James Ure said...

My legs are too short and thick to sit in either the full lotus or half lotus. It's seriously virtually impossible for me.

I just cross my legs as best I can, keep a straight back and relax my hands in my lap forming a circle with my hands. The tips of my thumbs resting against each other.

I'm not a contortionist and I'm done worrying if I'm sitting "correctly" or not. I use to worry about that and found myself just fretting over my posture the whole session. No, screw that. I do my best posture wise and then just concentrate on my breathing and mindfulness.

Boonton said...

I have mixed results with the Lotus position. Sometimes I just can't do it, other times I slip into it and can hold it for quite a while. I've noticed that when I sit every day it gets easier, if I skip a day getting back into the position hurts.

Initially I was working on my own and had to sit the best I could. It got easier until one day I surprised myself by just putting my legs in position.

Now so far the only place I've been that did formal meditation was ID. The place I went to before that had maybe 3 cushions for people who really wanted them & everyone else sat in chairs. They didn't discourage the lotus position but they didn't emphasize it either.

So maybe I'm doing it entirely wrong but looking at everyone else it seems like I'm pretty close. I think you should continue to try to achieve the position. Experiment maybe with a higher cushion or what I used to do was have a thin pillow under my knees. In the end don't worry about it so much that it disrupts your meditation but don't give up on it. I'm hardly very athletic so I can honestly tell you I don't I've pulled off any great feat.

Anonymous said...

"I'm not a contortionist and I'm done worrying if I'm sitting "correctly" or not. I use to worry about that and found myself just fretting over my posture the whole session. No, screw that. I do my best posture wise and then just concentrate on my breathing and mindfulness."

don't focus on your breathing or on 'mindfulness' whatever that is. focus on the posture. i know it feels almost impossible to find the right balance and have all the appropriate body parts in the correct position but that's the point. focusing on this stuff will help to take your mind off the silly thoughts in your head.

body and mind are the same thing so you cannot give up on what your body is doing and just focue on what your mind is doing. it's impossible. they are one and the same. thereforezazen is something you do with your body just as much as it is something you do with your mind.

it's supposed to be difficult to get the right posture. very few wothrwhile physcial pursuits are easy to master and zazen is definitely a physical pursuit.

Mysterion said...

drumroll, rimshot...

In all seriousness, folks, the average western butt is bigger than the average oriental butt and the average western leg is longer than the average oriental leg - and I am not pulling your leg.

Therefore, a bigger zafu might just solve one of your problems.

Cheers,
Chas

John said...

Mindfulness is paying attention. You can't really focus on mindfulness; you have to be mindful of something: posture, breathing, whatever dumb thoughts you're thinking. The danger of "Buddhist words" like mindfulness is they can start to sound like "magic spells" instead of descriptions of regular stuff that regular people do.

If you are being mindful of whatever is happening (reality) this would have to include your posture.

If you are an under-40 Westerner without major health problems (I mention this group because I'm in it and can speak from personal experience) you can learn to sit lotus. I thought I couldn't but I'm learning. It's not as hard as you think it is. I think most Westerners don't try to learn proper posture because they think body and mind are two different things, and because not many people who know that posture is important bother to say anything about it. Thanks Brad!

aumeye said...

hey Brad ~ No, unfortunately for me, it wasn't me you spotted. The Friday prior, in a hurry to descend the stairs at the train station (trying to grab a taxi!), I broke my toe (and embarrassed myself falling in front of the rush hour masses). So I had to cancel my cherished reservation for your lecture at the id project.

I've waited for years for you to come to NYC. You did. I missed you. That sucks. But I'm happy to hear it went well. Perhaps with an offer of better accommodations next time, you'll return?

My curiosity is piqued; I'm wondering who this yoga-question-asking woman is you thought might be me. Hmmm...

I hope you find your way back to the City before long. And this time, I will not run around in my sexy, high-heeled shoes for at least three weeks before.

Mysterion said...
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Jinzang said...

But if you’re just a lazy sod, go someplace else. OK?

Those who have studied the Gospel According to Larry Wall know that laziness is one of the three virtues of programming. The problem isn't laziness, it's ignorance. If people were genuinely lazy, they'd try to sit in lotus, because it's the easiest way to sit. I'm not kidding or joking, that's the truth.

Laziness is a virtue in meditation. The hardest thing to learn is to stop trying. The lazier you are, the better.

Smoggyrob said...

Hi everyone:

I don't have all the facts (like that would stop me), and I like Brad a lot, but I'm going to have to side with the cat. Brad, please consider yourself preemptively thrown out of my house.

Rob, Louie, Harley, Maryann, & Fanny

muddy elephant said...

Excellent post Brad:

Peeing in a bottle, dueling a crazy kitty with a plunger, eviction! It just doesn't get much better than that. Nice photo too.

Here's my nickel on the posture banter:

I used to sit in a decent half-lotus, but I am pretty sure it started aggravating my left knee a bit. Plus, the tightness/pain in my knee became a distraction to the point where I decided that it was not conducive to zazen.

So I just listened to my body and started sitting in Burmese posture. Here's a nice page to look at.

I don't ever think ignoring your body's natural pain sensing mechanism will lead to wisdom. You've got to be in tune with your own body to decide how much pain to sit with.

I will periodically try half-lotus again, and maybe given enough time and while taking care of my body eg., exercise, yoga, drinking lots of water,marathon tantric sex sessions, etc... I will have improved flexibilty enough to sit in the more demanding half/full lotus.

I look at it as a long term thing. I'm in no hurry. Ten years from now, if we are not sucking the ashes of a nuclear holocaust, and I can sit a full lotus, great! If not, no big deal.

I'm going to go on a mini rant here so please scroll on down past the rest of this if you want.

I've been to Korea a few times and while I 'm not totally sure about other culturally Buddhist countries--but, in my experience much of the population in Korea prefers sitting on the floor.

How many let's say, westerners, except younger children, would prefer sitting on a floor instead of a chair?

Now go back a few hundred years, heck maybe even a few thousand, about when what we think of nowadays as "proper zazen posture" was being taught/practiced and formal scriptures in Buddhist cultures were being written. Sitting on the floor was second nature to these cultures.

Sitting on the floor, cross legged, or otherwise is just not much a part of western culture. Probably why the chair was such a big hit.

The point is, if you have been used to sitting on a chair most of the time sitting in Burmese, half/full lotus will take some time and undoing of these cultural body mechanics.

Don't hurt yourself for some glorified eastern ideal. Give it time. Take care of your body.

Anonymous said...

drumroll, rimshot...

mysterion said: In all seriousness, folks, the average western butt is bigger than the average oriental butt and the average western leg is longer than the average oriental leg - and I am not pulling your leg.

Therefore, a bigger zafu might just solve one of your problems.

Cheers,
Chas


LMFAO!!! love it, you're killin me man! LOLOLOL

Anonymous said...

I wonder if Brad's attitude towards 'lazy students' is in any way related to the poor attendance at his zendo?

John said...

Anonymous said...
I wonder if Brad's attitude towards 'lazy students' is in any way related to the poor attendance at his zendo?


That's an interesting question, which brings up another interesting question:

Granted I've been traveling the world on and off for about a month (I sat zazen in the Middle East) and my previous attendance record might not keep me out of cabbage hell, but Brad, what are you talking about when you say you get poor attendance at Hill Street on Saturdays? Doesn't running out of zafus and wall space count as good attendance? Maybe the weeks I'm gigging are the weeks no one else shows up... except didn't the last all day zazen fill up? I guess that's different, cause the food is good.

Jinzang said...

Here's a video on building an electric fence from a computer monitor, so you can keep those vicious kitties properly confined.

aumeye said...

sheesh, jinzang; and i was one of your biggest fans.

Blake said...

You should have done your business in the cat's litter box. Gato might not have learned a lesson but it may have made it worth getting kicked out.

As far as sitting goes, I'm not a slender guy. My legs are pretty beefy but I've never had an issue with sitting half-lotus. Full-on lotus I can do for maybe twenty seconds. But there is an added benefit to zazen that I really have yet to hear (read?) anyone talking about and that's its effect on back pain.

Recently, I've been at odds with my lower back and my hips. However, after sitting for 1/2 hour, my back and hips feel better. Sitting puts my stuff back into alignment not unlike a chiropractic visit. Only cheaper.

So if anyone asks me the name of my chiropractor I'll say, "Dr. Zafu Zazen."

Andrew said...

Surely it has crossed everyone's mind that Noah and Brad should get together and have a serious chat about the Hardcore Zen/ Dharma Punx summit. What do you think?

o said...
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Mysterion said...
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Mysterion said...

Zazen discipline:

BEFORE and AFTER

nuff sed.

Blake said...

I think Brad and Noah should FIGHT! Or at least have a dance off...

Brad Warner! You've been SERVED!

Anonymous said...

Dance Off! Dance Off! Dance Off! Dance Off!

(or at least Bear/Hunter/Ninja!)

Anonymous said...

mysterion said: In all seriousness, folks, the average western butt is bigger than the average oriental butt and the average western leg is longer than the average oriental leg - and I am not pulling your leg.

We Asian-Americans find the word "oriental" offensive. Just thought I'd inform you.

Mysterion said...
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esmerelda_verde said...

Glad you like NYC, except for the wildlife. The red head with the yoga questions was me. No one recognizes me now that I do not have green hair any longer. I liked your talk at lot, sorry I could not make the other talks or stay longer and hang out. I have this thing called a job that interfers with my life a lot, not to mention non feline pets. I am curious about the ID people since I am looking for a group to sit with what did you think?

Other commenters who came what did you think of them??

I asked the questions because I am trying to transition over to Zen. For a number of reasons. Partly because it seems more 'pure' using that term pretty much the way the Japanese do. Since it got trendy Yoga today seems to be either new age mush, health club or McYoga.

As to sitting, little kids can all sit lotus easily so can 80 year old yoga teachers. If your posture is proper then it is comfortable. You can get more flexable mind and body at any age. What the Zafu does is make it easier for people with tight hamstrings to sit with a straight spine - very important because you do not want to block the nerve channels up your back. The crossed legs and touching hands close circuts in your nervous system call them chakra locks if you like. There is a lot more to it but basically you have to have proper posture, form follows function.

I think some of you guys are being too intellectual sometimes. I think it is really a mind/body thing.

Boonton said...

I agree about being too intellectual. I read constantly and comment on blogs quite a bit. I see how easy it is to end up reading about zazen all day long but never actually doing it.

Events like the ID project are pretty important because it's better to actually be with other people who are sharing together. The Shangra is an important piece of the practice IMO and while blogs are great they can't substitute.

Mysterion said...

Someone, somewhere sed:
"_We_ Asian-Americans find the word "oriental" offensive."

1) Its use is not controversial in Europe (It reflects myopic philosophy in the U.S.).
2) Many scholars consider the word "Oriental" -which simply means "Eastern" - to be out-dated because it lacks specificity.
3) Had I used the term "Eastern," people on the west coast might think that I am refering to New England.
4) I am a member of the Oriental Institute Library. By what name should I now call it?

"Since each individual has the right to self-identify, it is best to refer to him/her with whichever term he/she prefers. While many Asians are inclined to be called simply Americans, the majority want to pay homage to their ancestry by using the country of their forebearers to qualify their Americanism."

therefore, are YOU:
Bakan American
Burmese American
Chinese American
Filipino American
Indian American
Japanese American
Kambuj American
Mesopotamia American
Pakistani American
Siamese-American
Vietnamese American
Other?

The more diffuse the reciprocity, the more nebulous are the forms of address.

Please refer to me as a Hannover-Deutschland-American.

"Germany" did not yet exist when my Deutsch grandparents moved from the Kingdom of Hannover to Michigan.

Cheers,
Chas

dan said...

"Don't hurt yourself for some glorified eastern ideal. Give it time. Take care of your body."

the bend is in your hips not your knees. if you feel pain in your knees then you need to make your hips more flexible. i used to not know that and felt pain in my knees as well. which is bad. obviously


"So if anyone asks me the name of my chiropractor I'll say, "Dr. Zafu Zazen."

just in case anyone wasn't aware. chiropractors are scam artists with zero medical qualifications. ANYONE can call themselves a chiropractor.

there is good evidence that they actually damage your back rather than fix it. they claim to be realligning the joints in your spine. this is impossible. if they were actually moving the bones into a new position they would break your spine. the cracking noise you hear is simply the fluid being forced out of the joints like when you crack your knuckles.

the only people who are good for your back (apart from zen teachers obviously) are physiotherapists and masseurs (for muscle related back problems).

Mysterion said...
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Mysterion said...
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Jinzang said...

just in case anyone wasn't aware. chiropractors are scam artists with zero medical qualifications. ANYONE can call themselves a chiropractor.

Absolutely untrue. In the US chiropractic is a licensed medical practice requiring graduation from an accredited school, regulated by state boards.

there is good evidence that they actually damage your back rather than fix it.

The clinical trials to date show that chiropractic benefits back pain. Sorry for no cites, but they're out there if you look for them.

the only people who are good for your back (apart from zen teachers obviously) are physiotherapists and masseurs.

Many medical modalities benefit back pain pain. It all depends on the nature of the problem. I usually recommend yoga, but also have friends who have benefited from homeopathy, acupuncture, chiropractic, and the list goes on.

Try getting your information from places other than the skeptic sites. Obviously what you've learned there is biased and incorrect.

muddy elephant said...

Dan,
You make a very good point. A la Happy Gilmore: "it's all in the hips"

Mysterion said...
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dan said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
dan said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
dan said...

" just in case anyone wasn't aware. chiropractors are scam artists with zero medical qualifications. ANYONE can call themselves a chiropractor.

Absolutely untrue. In the US chiropractic is a licensed medical practice requiring graduation from an accredited school, regulated by state boards."

Yep, Just checked I was talking bollocks.Apologies.

"there is good evidence that they actually damage your back rather than fix it.

The clinical trials to date show that chiropractic benefits back pain. Sorry for no cites, but they're out there if you look for them."

ok someone's been doing some editing on the wikipedia page for chiropractors because the last time i looked there was all this stuff about how it was dodgy and now it's mysteriously vanished. i have heard the exact opposite from people who have used chiropractors though. i will look for some slightly better evidence if i remember later.

"the only people who are good for your back (apart from zen teachers obviously) are physiotherapists and masseurs.

Many medical modalities benefit back pain pain. It all depends on the nature of the problem. I usually recommend yoga, but also have friends who have benefited from

"homeopathy,"

placebo effect. homeopathy has failed every double blind study that has been done on it.

Incidentally I have nothing against the placebo effect as a treatment for some things like psychosomatic illnesses and maybe headaches and such. what i object to is people charging an absurd amount of money for what are literally sugar pills and giving people with real illnesses false hope that they will be cured by homeopathy. a strong belief in homeopathy may even prevent someone from getting some real medical help since they will rely on homeopathy instead.

you're a scientist right? scepticism is supposed to be the default position of a scientist. doubt until proven otherwise. i'm suprised a scientist seems to be advocating homeopathy.

however the day that homeopathy passes a double blind controlled test i will believe in it. although if it is shown to work then that will contradict the laws of " physics, chemistry and the observed dose-response relationships of conventional drugs" (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Homeopathy)

"acupuncture,"

there is no evidence that chi exists which is the basis for acupuncture. the jury still seems to be out on how effective acupunctuire really is and how much is just placebo.

"Try getting your information from places other than the skeptic sites. Obviously what you've learned there is biased and incorrect."

a sceptic is someone who doesn't believe in something until they have convincing evidence that it is true. the idea of a biased sceptic is an oxymoron. you are talking about a cynic.

sceptic sites are actually the ideal place to get information. if something has good evidence that it is true a sceptic will believe it regardless of how it makes them feel emotionally.

conversely a woo will believe something regardless of the evidence to show that that belief is false and base their beliefs on how they make them feel.

in my opinion, a buddhist should be a sceptic ready to drop a belief or gain a belief based on the objective evidence rather than their emotional response to the objective evidence.

maybe i was a little dismissive of chiropractors' effectiveness but i stand by my assertion that they are scam artists:

http://forums.randi.org/showthread.php?t=85436&highlight=chiropractor

Boonton said...

Just did a good 20 minutes of zazen with maybe 10 minutes of leg shifting in between. I tried something different tonight, I tried to think about nonsense stuff instead of trying to stop thinking.

Well sometimes reverse psych. works. I ended up spending a good amount of time finding that spot Brad talks about...that balancing spot. The lotus didn't hold up though. I had to switch to half-lotus near the end but I used the leg I usually don't favor so it gave it a 'work out' of sorts.

I also use a tea candle. I have it about 3-4 ft in front of me on top of a can of paint. I don't really try to focus on the flame. I find it useful as a timing device since I know when it is all liquid that I'm getting close to the halfway mark.

Very very nice tonight. Hard day at work and tomorrow will be hard too since it is month end....

Gregor said...

I used to think that half lotus or lotus where impossible positions for me. . . but after just about a week of trying for it very seriously and gradually working at stretching my legs during Zazen, first in Burmese position, then to half lotus, I'm sitting my Zazen twice a day in a decent half lotus. I think I just needed the will to make it happen. The physical limitations I thought I had were just delusions I had created.

Mysterion said...
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Mysterion said...
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Smoggyrob said...

Hi everyone:

Gregor, you're an inspiration. My story is similar to yours, substituting "about two years" for "about a week." By the by, Brad's article, "Proper Posture Required," s still a great read. Hit the link on the main blog to "Sit Down and Shut Up (my web page)."

As for low attendance at Brad's zazen classes, it climbed from an average of about five to the ten to twenty that show up now. We're getting to the point where more growth will require new digs, and we'll need to get zafus and zabutans.

The last time I let everyone in while Brad was gone, there were five of us. Sheesh, there are 17 million people in this town. So, this Saturday (the 1st) I'm offering nude zazen, to draw in more people. That's right, live nude zazen. 18 and over, and there's a two-drink minimum.

Rob

P.S. The part about there being zazen this Saturday is true.

Mysterion said...
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Anonymous said...

And I can get members of the band Free Beer
to come and do a gig after sitting!--Hell, why not before and during too?
Daddy should go out of town more often!

Blake said...

Mysterion: was there a case or news story that prompted that bill? Just curious.

As far as chiropractors go, I found one I adore. He's a tiny Sikh with a big ole beard. He also smells of cabbage. I wonder if he was a cabbage in a previous life...

Lynn said...

It’s been 30 years since Oregonians first slapped “Don’t Californicate Oregon” bumper stickers on their cars, but, like the song by the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Californication” is still alive and well.

When Californians move in, things change for the worse. They infect the rest of the west with their dumb politics and bad driving, and make housing prices soar.

For many Westerners, California is seen as a state of excess and an example of how things shouldn’t be done. (These people keep electing movie stars as their governors.)

Other western residents aren’t so interested in a lot of government control over how they behave, and therein lies the problem.

Anonymous said...

As far as jinzang"s opinions on skeptics, let's remember that he has studied "tibetan" buddhism which is laughed at by most zen guys, especially Nishijima and Brad. If it sounds to good to be true, probably is!
Don't ever miss an episode of Penn & Teller's "Bullshit" tv show to get the straight stories.

Mysterion said...
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Mysterion said...
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Blake said...

Mysterion: I suppose the AMA is quite active in lobbying the California State Senate. I mean all that money should be going to MD's not DC's!

Anonymous said...

"there is no evidence that chi exists"

Dan, you know how you know you have a hand because you can see it, feel it, move it? Same thing for chi, for those who can perceive it.

Mysterion said...

Read PAGE 7 of SB 801

It's not about AMA, it's about consumer fraud. And Jerry Brown is the State AG.

"governor moonbeams" was correct - a state communications satellite would have saved California $$$Billions over the life of the hardware. Corporations (profiteering) went after him big time.

GREED is the #1 sin in Buddhism.

Anonymous said...

"there is no evidence that chi exists"

Dan, you know how you know you have a hand because you can see it, feel it, move it? Same thing for chi, for those who can perceive it."


sorry i should have clarified. i meant there is no evidence that chi exists outside of the minds of those who believe it exists. you know? like there's no evidence that it exists in reality.

Anonymous said...

And before some smart arse says ' ah! but what is reality?

" Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn't go away" Philip K Dick


dan

Mysterion said...

Tai Chi = essential circulation
'Qi' or 'Chi' means the energy or Prana of circulation and digestion.

So, if circulation (of the blood) does not exist, then Chi does not exist.

Tai Chi Chuan may mean “supreme ultimate fist” - but only in Anime.

Mysterion said...

Jerry Brown studied for the priesthood at Sacred Heart Novitiate before leaving to major in Latin and Greek at U.C. Berkeley. He graduated in law from Yale and in 1969... in l975 became the youngest governor in California history.

Brown’s eight-year tenure as governor was unconventional. He lived an austere lifestyle, dated Linda Ronstadt, and occasionally repaired to Zen retreats with Buddhist friends.

Jinzang said...

Okay, let's get a few things out of the way first.

You're a scientist right?

No, I'm a computer programmer.

Let's remember that he has studied "tibetan" buddhism which is laughed at by most zen guys, especially Nishijima and Brad.

Neither Gudo Nishijima or Brad has ever been anything but respectful to me. In my experience "most Zen guys" respect Tibetan Buddhism. It's the tyros and wannabes who feel otherwise. If your intent was to provide an argument against Tibetan Buddhism or to impeach my credibility, this is pretty thin stuff.

Now that that's done, let's get to the meat of the matter.

a sceptic is someone who doesn't believe in something until they have convincing evidence that it is true.

No. a skeptic is a person who shares a common world view of what is so with their fellow skeptics, including a view of what constitutes "convincing evidence." Skeptics have their heroes and villains, social norms, and conventions just like any other world view. It a characteristic of every world view to hold that it has a privileged position that allows it to judge the value of every other world view, and here skepticism is no different.

The anthropologist Gregory Bateson said he had the hardest time conveying to his students what a word view is. It's not a fact, belief or theory. It's a frame that organizes these. I think it's an important concept becaause successful Buddhist practice exposes the frame of self and other that we use to organize our lives as just another view.

It seems that many Zen practitioners are in search of a rational or scientific Zen, meaning one that is consistent with the world view of skepticism or the view that they hold of science. I believe this search is an impediment to the genuine understanding of Zen. The skeptical or "sceintific" world view holds very strongly to the distinction between the observer and observed, experimenter and experiment, all those dualities that Zen transcends. The attempt to fit Zen into this world view devalues Zen into just another relaxaation exercise

Mysterion said...

Einstein's Moon: the Curious Quest for Quantum Reality

Einstein and Bohr debated over reality - i.e., if external reality exists apart from the observer ("Is the moon there when noone is looking?").

Einsteinian wanted a local reality, independent of the observer.

Bohr defended the Copenhagen Interpretation which describes matter as a "standing probability wave." In the absence of an observer, there is no matter and thus, no reality.

I doubt that the moon exists in the absence of an observer.

Anonymous said...

"cute accordian music"

ahh, c'est la vie!

dan said...

jinzang,

first i'd just like you to know that it wasn't me who was dissing tibetan buddhism earlier. that was some other guy. one of my best friends is tibetan buddhist and although i admit that i think a lot of the stuff he believes in is pure nonsense, this has never come in the way of our friendship.

this is what i had in mind when i said 'sceptic': from dictionary.com

A doubting or questioning attitude or state of mind; dubiety

A methodology based on an assumption of doubt with the aim of acquiring approximate or relative certainty.

i.e. never take anything on faith or believe something just because it feels good to believe it or because some guy with a beard told you it was true.

convincing evidence is evidence that does not rely on anyone's beliefs. evidence that speaks for itself

it would be interesting jinzang if you could provide an example of 'sceptics' arbitrarily creating a benchmark of what constitutes convincing evidence that is in any way controversial or open to dispute. which is what you seem to be suggesting they do.

out of interest what is your criteria for convincing evidence for homeopathy?

i do think it is very important that buddhism agrees with science.
if buddhism makes some extraordinary claim that has no scientific evidence for it and importantly no way to prove the truth of the claim then it is no different from any of the other nonsense and superstition that has plagued human thinking since we first appeared.

mysterion, as i understood it chi is not the flow of the blood but some kind of ethereal energy force that flows through the body taht can be harnessed to cure disease and other such extraordinary things. there is no evidence taht such an energy force exists.

Jinzang said...

i'd just like you to know that it wasn't me who was dissing tibetan buddhism earlier.

Understood.

convincing evidence is evidence that does not rely on anyone's beliefs. evidence that speaks for itself

That's the point. Evidence never speaks for itself. Only people, with their differing world views, speak for the evidence. And they do so by first interpreting it in terms of their own world view.

it would be interesting jinzang if you could provide an example of 'sceptics' arbitrarily creating a benchmark of what constitutes convincing evidence that is in any way controversial or open to dispute. which is what you seem to be suggesting they do.

About ten or twelve years ago some researchers took two groups of college students, gave half steroids and half placebo and had them lift weights for six weeks or so. Not too surprisingly, the group on steroids made faster gains. The researchers published the results in Lancet, one of the most prestigious medical journals. The issue with the article also had an editorial saying that there finally was evidence that steroids enhanced athletic performance.

I find this quite remarkable. At that time every high school football student knew about steroids and how they worked. Yet the editors of Lancet, without a trace of irony or self-consciousness could say that they finally had evidence steroids worked. None of experience gathered by athletes using black market steroids counted, you see, because it wasn't "blessed" by being part of a sanctioned double blind study. It was completely invisible to the editors of Lancet.

You see the same nonsense when you read an article about an MRI study of meditators that "proves" meditation works, ignoring the experience of over two thousand years of meditation practioners. None of that counts, you see, but a short study of a handful of meditators strapped into a MRI machine does count.

Is my point clearer now? I call this "double blind myopia."

if buddhism makes some extraordinary claim that has no scientific evidence for it and importantly no way to prove the truth of the claim then it is no different from any of the other nonsense and superstition that has plagued human thinking since we first appeared.

I think you miss the point of what Buddhism is trying to do. Buddhism is a practical and not a theoretical system. The practice aims at producing an understanding, but it's a non-conceptual understanding, one that can't be expressed in words.

out of interest what is your criteria for convincing evidence for homeopathy?

That's off topic for this blog. Another time, another place.

Anonymous said...

Jinzang posted at 1:19
absolutely, one of the clearest explanations I've come across.
Thank you.

Mysterion said...
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Boonton said...

After starting on meditating on my own I sought out someplace near me and found a Tibetan place in Maplewood NJ (Dharmachakra Center, http://www.meditationinessex.org/) whose main teacher is Geshe Kelsang Gyatso. My limited wikipedia research on him indicated that he had some type of falling out with the Dali Lama and he has been criticized for being a little bit cult like in England.

I have to say, though, that I found the people to be very nice, the teachers were not dogmatic or arrogant in any way and the experience was very positive for me. I like trying to do the lotus position so I'm not a fan of their laid back, everyone just sit on a chair, style of meditation but I found some of the guided meditations very useful.

My knowledge is very limited here but if I had to sum it up, it is their technique is to attain enlightenment by performing a series of guided meditations. Two ones that interested me were called the death meditation and the other one 'kind mother'. The death meditation was focusing on the fact that I will someday die. The idea is that a lot of our suffering is because we do not really believe that in our heart...we assume we will live forever. But if you concentrate on the fact that you will die someday any problem you have now seems rather small in comparison. The 'kind mother' meditation is based on their belief in reincarnation. Again the idea here is that if we have all been through uncountable reincarnations in all kinds of forms then just about anyone or anything we see today could have easily been our mother in some previous life (either human or not). Just as we feel grateful towards our mothers today, we should feel the same towards all living things because they were probably once our mother at some point.

My mind leaps to reject such supernatural talk. But compare the above to what Brad writes in his books when he says that since there is no essential difference between us we should feel compassion towards all. Another example is Geshe writes that we shouldn't get angry about 'bad luck' but we should take responsibility for it. Such things happen as a result of bad karma from previous lives. Compare this what Brad wrote about living as if you are fully responsible for everything that happens to you even if some stuff doesn't seem like its your fault.

I honestly don't think I can intellectually accept the reincarnation beliefs so I feel myself drifting away from them and towards locating someplace that's a bit different (NJ isn't exactly full of Zen...). But I see some value in how they have set up their system. To me it seems like a major contradiction to say your self is an illusion...the present moment is what is real and what matters but ohh yea...you had countless lifetimes before. If 'I' don't exist in the sense that I'm permanent then how can 'I' have been mopping around in the 1800's, 1700's and so on? I wonder perhaps if the Tibetans use some of the supernatural claims the way Christians use Santa Clause with children; as a way to ease the mind into more complicated doctrines to be studied later on. Or perhaps it is just that Tibetan Buddhism represents a mix of Buddhism with native Tibetan culture.

I wouldn't bash them. Whatever the faults of the first place I visited I'm very grateful for the experience and probably will come back to them now and then. If anyone here has more knowledge of Tibetan Buddhism I'd love to hear if I've gotten it even partly right.

Mysterion said...
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Anonymous said...

"chi is not the flow of the blood"

I think chi includes the flow of the blood. it's a band of energy that ranges from the solid to the etheric/electo-magnetic.

Mysterion said...

As a life-long explorer of FOLKLORE, I can only state that in my opinion most of these esoteric concepts boil down to a simpler scientific rendering. Conceptually, the ancients were attributing an outcome (good health) to a mystic force (chi).

Another example: "If an apple falls from the tree and hits Newton on the head, leading him to a theory of gravitation, then it is 'the will of god(s)' that the apple so falls." (so sez the Skype).

Every force has an electrical and magnetic component to it - even the force of Hipshot Scotty crossing the carpeted lobby.

steve said...

I am not lazy just cannot get my knees anywhere near the mat, and would take years of stretching probably to do that.( and I am not a young guy either )

Anonymous said...

it won't take years steve. trust me. it just seems like it will. if you do a little hip stretching yoga everyday you'l be fine

Anonymous said...

jinzang,

"That's the point. Evidence never speaks for itself. Only people, with their differing world views, speak for the evidence. And they do so by first interpreting it in terms of their own world view."

no, some evidence does speak for itself. to a certain extent you are right that people's world views bias their judgement but at the same time people who disagree that the evidence that morphine stops or that chemotherapy is good at treating cancer are called delusional.

"About ten or twelve years ago some researchers took two groups of college students, gave half steroids and half placebo and had them lift weights for six weeks or so. Not too surprisingly, the group on steroids made faster gains. The researchers published the results in Lancet, one of the most prestigious medical journals. The issue with the article also had an editorial saying that there finally was evidence that steroids enhanced athletic performance.

I find this quite remarkable. At that time every high school football student knew about steroids and how they worked. Yet the editors of Lancet, without a trace of irony or self-consciousness could say that they finally had evidence steroids worked. None of experience gathered by athletes using black market steroids counted, you see, because it wasn't "blessed" by being part of a sanctioned double blind study. It was completely invisible to the editors of Lancet.

You see the same nonsense when you read an article about an MRI study of meditators that "proves" meditation works, ignoring the experience of over two thousand years of meditation practioners. None of that counts, you see, but a short study of a handful of meditators strapped into a MRI machine does count.

Is my point clearer now? I call this "double blind myopia."

So your point is that because steroids passed a double blind study and homeopathy didn't this somehow shows that what? steroids work and homeopathy doesn't?

The reason that scientists ignore anecdotal evidence is because it is not an effective way to determine if something is true or not even though much anecdotal evidence will be true. there is plenty of anecdotal evidence that the loch ness monster exists but every controlled experiment has come up with nothing. Obviously it seems stupid to test steroids like that in hindsight. since they passed the test it seems like testing the obvious. but if steroids had failed and been shown to be no better than a placebo then that would show that steroids were no better than a placebo and thus pointless in spending money on.

plus these examples you gave are not incidences of sceptics creating and arbitrary benchmark of what constitutes convincing evidence. Passing a double blind test is not an arbitrary criterion.
there is very good reason to use it because it filters out all the stuff that doesn't work - like homeopathy.


I think you miss the point of what Buddhism is trying to do. Buddhism is a practical and not a theoretical system. The practice aims at producing an understanding, but it's a non-conceptual understanding, one that can't be expressed in words.

If it's so practical and can;t be expressed in words then why all this stuff about god's and demons and hungry ghosts and psychic monks ?
i'm not saying the point of buddhism is to prove some theoretical system, i'm saying that IF ANY religion makes an extraordinary claim like "when you die you will be reborn as another being" or " there is such thing as as the subtle mind that transfers from one vessel to the next in each life" or "some monks can predict the future", then these extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence to prove them otherwise they are no different form any of the other woo that humans like to fill their minds with.

in case you are interested i've posted you position on scepticism on a sceptic website if you want to see what they all said (some partially agreed) http://forums.randi.org/showthread.php?t=91966

dan

Anonymous said...

incidentally, if scientific studies had found no evidence that meditation was in anyway good for you that would have made me seriously question the point of doing it.

Mysterion said...

Anonymous said...
"incidentally, if scientific studies had found no evidence that meditation was in anyway good for you that would have made me seriously question the point of doing it."

EXACTLY (I'll say aum-en to that!)

"Likewise, surveys of experienced meditators show an accentuation of positive factors and a diminishment of negative ones (Ferguson & Gowan, 1976; Goleman & Schwartz,1976; Nidich et al., 1973; Schwartz, 1973; Pelletier, 1974; Seeman et al., 1972; Lesh, 1970; Leung, 1973; and Garfield, 1974, cited in Hall & Lindzey, 1978, p. 375)."

Anonymous said...

What the Thinker thinks, the Prover proves :)

A lot of so-called scientific study is little more than paid for advertisements by Big Pharma.

You doctor might be giving you the best care and the best meds, or he might be giving you the meds that get him the best kick backs from some company rep.

Buddha advised people to try his teaching and make up their own minds. If it works for you, good. If it doesn't work for you, try something else.

I would suggest the same attitude towards so-called "correct posture". Everyone's body is different, so if you cannot do the "correct posture" then find a posture that works for you. If the 'zen master' doesn't like it then go find someone less blinded by zen dogma.

Anonymous said...

there are tons of schools of buddhism.. if you want, you can find one to match just about any type of meditation you can imagine. however, if you are interested in soto zen.. you better start working on your flexibility.

Anonymous said...

About Carolina Morning's inflatable zafus:

someone asked:

Anonymous said...Inflatable zafu?!!
Could anyone who has used such an item please comment...do they really work?

I can tell you that an inflatable zafu worked great for me. I was packing up to leave the house and do a 7 day sitting retreat. I had planned to bring my ordinary zafu but my luggage was crammed, so at the last minute, I deflated the Carolina Morning zafu, jammed it in, and went off the to retreat.

That little puppy was excellent. Its a bit bouncy to sit on, but it has the effect of really assisting you to learn balance.

Later, I gave my CM zafu to a zennie who had to ship out to go to Iraq.

Anonymous said...

Another thing that can help loosen people up for zazen.

You need to get one of those rolling styrofoam cylinders one sees at gyms and physical therapy set ups. These are fantastic for self administering massage.

I'd been sitting half lotus for years and had spent months working to extend into full lotus. But despite months and months of practicing full lotus, I remained unable to do it for more than a few minutes at a time.

I told this to a physical therapist who was offering free sessions to AIDS Ride participants. She showed me an intervention that helped.

(Note: I do not have any knee, back or hip troubles and do not (at least not yet) have arthritis.

I will try to describe the manuvere the PT taught. You can do it at a gym if you can get one of the styrofoam rollers or purchase a roller and do it at home.

The PT told me to walk a few stops, then stop. She looked at how I positioned my feet. She drew my attention to the fact that my toes pointed outwards when I stood still, and said this was indicative of tight hip flexors.

(So take a look at how your feet naturally fall into alignment when you are standing--see if your toes point outwards)

The PT, then used the syrofoam cylinder and showed me a trick to loosen up hips to facilitate full lotus.

She directed me to sit my butt on top of the cylinder. The thying tends to roll, so you need to keep it stable.

Then, I was told to keep my right leg extended, right heel on the ground to stablize myself, and to tuck my left leg into half lotus.


Once I tucked my left leg into half lotus, knee tucked, left foot in right groin, the PT
directed me to lean down, put my hands on the ground for stabilty to keep the roller from shifting and dumping me to the ground.

Then, still seated on the cylinder, she had me rock my butt slightly to the left, putting my body weight onto my left hip, pressing my left hip onto the roller, with my left leg in half lotus, still seated on that styrofoam cylinder.

Then, leaning my weight onto my left hip, with my left leg tucked in half lotus, I was told to roll back and forth on that cylinder, administering focused massage to the left ass cheek and to the the muscles in my left hip socket.

Then, I was told to untuck my left leg, then tuck my right leg into half lotus, then lean right and do that same kind of focused, rolling massage to my right hip.

Guys, when I then did a full lotus, the difference was *astounding*. That focused massage did the trick.

The PT stated that tight hip flexors are very common in those who spend hours sitting in ordinary chairs, and most athletic activity can tighten the flexors further.

That syrofoam roller can also be used to self massage quads, hams, the back, and if someone shows you how, the ileo-tibeal band.

You feel a kind of 'good pain' when doing this correctly, just like the good pain that comes from zazen. It aches but you feel your muscles releasing and you feel more free.

You should not feel hot, sharp, shredding deep pain. That's of course orthopedic, bad pain, not dharma pain and means 'stop.'

The rollers cost $25 or so bucks at a medical supply store.

There are much more durable ones, coated in dark blue rubber, but they probably cost more.

Anonymous said...

"When Californians move in, things change for the worse. They infect the rest of the west with their dumb politics and bad driving, and make housing prices soar."


I would trade my place in Salem Oregon for Huntington Beach so fast it would make your Oregonian head spin. Sometimes i stand in absolute disbelief at the stupidity of soooo many Oregonians.

Anonymous said...

"You doctor might be giving you the best care and the best meds, or he might be giving you the meds that get him the best kick backs from some company rep."

In the US maybe. Here in the UK doctors get paid by the government and prescription drugs cost the patient a flat rate of, wait for it, $10 no matter what the medicine is. can you feel the smugness? :)

Mysterion said...
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I Am Not Trying To Ruin Your Day said...

Maybe the cat was there for Christ too?

wahzoh said...

Hi, Brad - I myself have often sung the song "Psycho Kitty" to my cats. They enjoy it and it helps them sleep. However, I must point out to you that the correct spelling is "Q'est-CE que c'est" - in other words, you left out a couple of letters. Even though these letters are silent, they are extremely important. Like farts - the silent ones are the deadly ones.

Anyway, I'm sure they pointed out the missing letters to you in Montreal, as the French and even French Canadians take this sort of stuff very, very seriously.

Not silent and not deadly, Byrd in LA

Anonymous said...

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Can anyone give me any advice to ease my pain?

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