Wednesday, January 28, 2009


Breathe deeply, empty your mind, relax. Meditation, or "mindfulness" is credited with stress reduction and improving health and happiness levels. Some ME recovery stories (yes, occasionally people do recover!) include meditation as one of the means to becoming well again.

Jon Kabat-Zinn's 2-CD set, "Mindfulness for Beginners" is the best introduction to meditation I've found. Kabat-Zinn is not to be confused with all the 'new age' gurus out there; he holds a PhD in molecular biology from MIT, and founded the Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Health Care, and Society at the University of Massachusetts Medical School (wikipedia).

For those who like to meditate to music, my favourites at the moment are: Latif Bolat: Let There be Love; Krishna Das: One Track Heart; and Amar Nath: Rain Melody. Sometimes I listen to Shakti Gawain's Creative Visualization Meditations, but sometimes I find her a bit too much new age fluff for my liking.

What's your favourite music to meditate to? Or maybe you prefer listening to the wind and birds outside the window? Share your thoughts and music using the comment button below!

Sunday, January 25, 2009

What is M.E.?

The following definition of ME is taken from:

Myalgic Encephalomyelitis is a systemic neurological disease initiated by a viral infection which is characterised by (scientifically measurable) damage to the brain stem which results in dysfunctions and damage to almost all vital bodily systems and a loss of normal internal homeostasis. Substantial evidence suggests that M.E. is caused by an enterovirus. The onset of M.E. is always acute and M.E. can be diagnosed within just a few weeks. M.E. is an easily recognisable distinct organic neurological disease which can be verified by objective testing. If all tests are normal, then a diagnosis of M.E. cannot be correct.
M.E. can occur in both epidemic and sporadic forms and can be extremely disabling, or sometimes fatal. M.E. is a chronic/lifelong disease that has existed for centuries. It shares significant similarities with diseases such as MS, Lupus and Polio as well as end-stage AIDS. There are more than 60 different neurological, cognitive, cardiac, metabolic, immunological, and other M.E. symptoms. Fatigue is not a defining nor even essential symptom of M.E. People with M.E. would give anything to instead only be severely ‘fatigued.’ Far fewer than 0.5% of the population has the distinct neurological disease known since 1956 as Myalgic Encephalomyelitis.

For a more detailed definition of ME see:
Links to both websites can be found on the right-hand side of this page.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Obama and the Presidents

I woke at 6:30 am. I didn’t feel at all like getting up – one of those mornings when I just want to stay cozy and drowsy in bed (which almost never happened before ME) – so I played a podcast of The Strand, the BBC World Service arts program. I listened to an interview with Tarell Alvin McCraney, who’s apparently got three of his plays all running on the London stage at the moment (if I heard right); he’s American, he’s black, and he’s gay – and I’m clearly way out of touch with the London theatre scene, because I’d never heard of him. Times have changed; but what I noticed most about the interview was people’s attitude towards him as an American in London – and this is what has really changed – people smile when they ask him if he’s American, and then ask what he thinks about Obama, and he (McCraney) has noticed how happy people in England are about the new US president; they are happy (and they show it!) that Obama won.

How long has it been since the Brits were truly interested in who became president of the US? Clearly I’m not the only one who is thrilled at what we’ve just experienced. And I don’t think it’s only because Obama is African American – it could have been Condoleezza Rice who got elected, and I doubt that people would have been so thrilled; it could have been Colin Powell, or Jesse Jackson, and the reaction would have been far less enthusiastic. There is something special about Obama that is a combination of everything about him, not just one single element, that appeals to many people. As a young boy he lived for a couple of years in Jakarta, and his step-father was nominally Muslim. I know from my own experience (two years in Surabaya, East Java) that living there one becomes accustomed to hearing the call to prayer five times a day, to seeing everyone head for the mosque at 11 am on Friday mornings, and that the rhythm of Islamic life becomes an everyday thing, something positive; one associates it with life, with routine, with normality. So Obama is the first US president who has a personal experience of life in an Islamic country. For him Muslims are not “other”, they are not strangers. And this is what we need now; this is the kind of person we need who can help bridge this gap between the Judeo-Christian and the Muslim world.

On January 7th the former living US presidents all met together for lunch at the White House, a meeting that apparently Obama initiated, and GW generously agreed to host. Bush Sr., Bush Jr., Clinton, and Carter were all there. It is unusual for such an event to occur before a new president takes office. My impression, from the brief media film clip, was of the senior men all handing over the torch to a younger man, and wishing him well; but at the same time, for me, there was a sense of Obama’s seniority – a sense that here is a man who has the combined intelligence of all who have preceded him, with an additional dose of emotional intelligence that is exceptionally (and sadly) rare in senior officials. I’m not saying that Obama won’t make mistakes. How could anyone take on such a job as this and not make mistakes? But I don’t foresee him making any of the terrible gaffes that dogged presidents Carter, Clinton, or (worst of all) GW Bush.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

A Rainy Day

Malta doesn't get much rain but at 1:50 am the lightning flashes and rain slashing the windows woke me. This is the greyest, wettest day since I moved down the hill to Qawra by the sea. The cool damp weather encourages me to stay indoors curled up on the sofa in front of the warm gas fire. And this is good. It's all very well being told to "listen to your body" when you've got M.E., but there's the shopping to be done, food to be cooked, dishes washed, e-mails waiting for replies, not to mention the weight of an entire anglophone culture that believes in the Protestant work ethic and the oneupmanship of pushing yourself until you drop. So my thanks to Aylwin for her comment on the need to rest - we cannot be told this too often! Rest is the only actual proven cure for M.E. The medical establishment hasn't come up with anything else - that is for sure. And please, please, don't tell me that noni juice, or gochi juice, or Vitamin X will do the trick. Not unless you've done the clinical trials with control groups on a few hundred people and your results have been published in The Lancet.