September 2020

The Path

Glastonbury Tor

Today I go for a long walk and run. This is part of my new challenge 1,000,000 steps by the end of the year; so an average of over 10,000 steps every day.

Why? Well part of the reason I’m doing this, the running, the intermittent fasting, the Tai Chi, Yoga and so on is, certainly, to become more fit and to reach my ideal weight of 10 stone by Christmas. But there’s a bit more to it than that.

From late July to the first half of September I’ve been pretty good in following a routine of practice that featured long runs, cold showers and fasting. Far from perfect but overall about as good a run of practice as I’ve been able to manage at any point in my life; certainly as far as practicing on my own goes, away from ashrams, dojos and courses. For the past two weeks or so I have lost momentum and have been less diligent.

Looking back over my life I confess that I have not been a digiligent disciple of any one path or discipline but there has, equally, always been a connection to something that I could call ‘the Path’ or ‘the Way’. Whether Yoga or Aikido, or more recently Taichi, Qigong and Wing Chun, some practice has connected me to the Path. I believe that it has helped me to stay in reasonable physical health over 67 years but this may equally be down to good fortune. I have gone for long periods doing very little of any practice but returning again and again to some practice has been essential for my sense of emotional and spiritual integrity.

For me the Path is not confined by or to any particular practices nor does it require any set of beliefs. Practices connect me to the Path but they are not the Path. Neither running nor meditation is the Path but they take me, while I am engaged in them, up and away (as it were) from the concerns that keep me bogged down in the particularities of my life. Those particularities are, as it says on the tin, particular to each of us. They include our concerns about money, work, family, relationships, conflicts, health and the whole process of living and dying from birth to death. Our personal landscape of existence.

Our practices, whatever they are, however ‘well’ or ‘badly’ we do them, enable us to be in a place where, for a while, the particularities do not exist. Where, for a while we can feel connected to a purer, less conditioned sense of being. It is common enough, a cliché I suppose, for teachers to say, as we enter a meditation space or a dojo, that we should leave our worries, with our shoes, at the entrance.

Practices are not the Path but they are of the Path depending on our relationship with them, our dedication to them, our treasuring of them and our constantly returning to it through them. It is through the sense of return , welcome and rightness that we recognise the Path.

“Come, come, whoever you are. Wanderer, worshiper, lover of leaving. It doesn’t matter. Ours is not a caravan of despair. come, even if you have broken your vows a thousand times. Come, yet again , come , come.”
~ Rumi.

A Wave of Dissent

It is now very common for those who dissent from the narrative of Covid-19 being an unprecedented crisis necessitating unprecedented restrictions on public life and private freedoms to be labeled ‘covidiots’ whose actions are selfish, deluded, irresponsible and a danger to public. But it’s becoming increasingly clear, as doctors and scientists voice their concerns, that this dissent has more support from ‘the science’ than does the ‘official’ pandemic narrative. And it’s becoming increasingly clear that those who don’t question the narrative and attempt to deter questioning are the ones who are being irresponsible.

In a stunning development, [Dr. Mike Yeadon] a former Chief Science Officer for the pharmaceutical giant Pfizer says “there is no science to suggest a second wave should happen.”

https://hubpages.com/politics/Pfizer-Chief-Science-Officer-Second-Wave-Based-on-Fake-Data-of-False-Positives-for-New-Cases-Pandemic-is-Over

The increase in positive test results cannot be used to predict a second wave of illnesses and deaths. Yeadon points to flaws in the PCR test for the presence of Covid-19 that result in false positives and positives that do not indicate current infection and infectiousness.

Despite efforts to suppress dissent there are many voices in the medical and science communities across the world that argue that the dangers of the Covid-19 pandemic were overhyped in the first place and that it is now essentially over. They argue that some responses to the virus, such as lockdowns and masks, have been unnecessary and have done more harm than good.

A group of over 500 Belgian doctors and over 1600 other medically trained staff signed an open letter dated 5 September that begins:

We, Belgian doctors and health professionals, would like to express our serious concern about the evolution of the situation in recent months surrounding the outbreak of the SARS-CoV-2 virus. We call on politicians to be independently and critically informed in the decision-making process and in the compulsory implementation of corona-measures. We ask for an open debate, where all experts are represented without any form of censorship. After the initial panic surrounding covid-19, the objective facts now show a completely different picture – there is no medical justification for any emergency policy anymore. The current crisis management has become totally disproportionate and causes more damage than it does any good. We call for an end to all measures and ask for an immediate restoration of our normal democratic governance and legal structures and of all our civil liberties.

https://docs4opendebate.be/en/

‘Fact checkers’ attempted to delegitimise this letter when I posted a link to Facebook groups on the grounds that some claims about the wearing of masks were false or unproven. This prompted me to responded by writing an earlier article: Checking the Checkers.

The wearing of masks is currently presented as completely sensible and unproblematic and wearing them has become mandatory in some situations but in March the government was advising against wearing masks.

Members of the public could be putting themselves more at risk from contracting coronavirus by wearing face masks, one of England’s most senior doctors has warned.

Jenny Harries, deputy chief medical officer, said the masks could “actually trap the virus” and cause the person wearing it to breathe it in.

“For the average member of the public walking down a street, it is not a good idea” to wear a face mask in the hope of preventing infection, she added.

https://www.independent.co.uk/news/health/coronavirus-news-face-masks-increase-risk-infection-doctor-jenny-harries-a9396811.html


The question must be asked ‘why the change?’ And if there are good reasons for the change in advice and policy does that mean that the concerns that Jenny Harris raised were wholly unwarrented? If they were not wholly unwarranted then surely there should be some kind of ‘mask protocol’ giving guidance on how to safely use and care for masks? The failure to give proper guidance must diminish the effectiveness of mask use and possibly endangers some users.

In addition to, and perhaps more important than, the issue of masks, the Belgian open letter raises a concern about the drive to develop a vaccine for the Covid-19:

Survey studies on influenza vaccinations show that in 10 years we have only succeeded three times in developing a vaccine with an efficiency rate of more than 50%. Vaccinating our elderly appears to be inefficient. Over 75 years of age, the efficacy is almost non-existent.38

Due to the continuous natural mutation of viruses, as we also see every year in the case of the influenza virus, a vaccine is at most a temporary solution, which requires new vaccines each time afterwards. An untested vaccine, which is implemented by emergency procedure and for which the manufacturers have already obtained legal immunity from possible harm, raises serious questions. 39 40 We do not wish to use our patients as guinea pigs.

On a global scale, 700 000 cases of damage or death are expected as a result of the vaccine.41

If 95% of people experience Covid-19 virtually symptom-free, the risk of exposure to an untested vaccine is irresponsible.

https://docs4opendebate.be/en/

Besides the potential dangers of a covid vaccine we should also consider the costs to governments of investing in such a vaccine. Might it not be more effective to tackle issues such as poor, overcrowded, housing, nutrition and health and social care that make some disadvantaged communities more vulnerable?

There is evidence that poorly judged responses to the pandemic have already cost more lives than they have saved. We read in the British Medical Journal that:

Only a third of the excess deaths seen in the community in England and Wales can be explained by covid-19 …

David Spiegelhalter, chair of the Winton Centre for Risk and Evidence Communication at the University of Cambridge, said that covid-19 did not explain the high number of deaths taking place in the community.

… on 12 May he explained that, over the past five weeks, care homes and other community settings had had to deal with a “staggering burden” of 30 000 more deaths than would normally be expected, as patients were moved out of hospitals that were anticipating high demand for beds.

Of those 30 000, only 10 000 have had covid-19 specified on the death certificate. While Spiegelhalter acknowledged that some of these “excess deaths” might be the result of underdiagnosis, “the huge number of unexplained extra deaths in homes and care homes is extraordinary. When we look back . . . this rise in non-covid extra deaths outside the hospital is something I hope will be given really severe attention.”

https://www.bmj.com/content/369/bmj.m1931

He added that many of these deaths would be among people “who may well have lived longer if they had managed to get to hospital.”

It has been argued that the number of excess deaths is a very central measure in assessing of the impact of Covid-19. The high number of excess deaths has been used to counter the argument that very many of those who died of or with the infection would have died very soon anyway. However it seems that two-thirds, 20,000, of these deaths were caused not by the virus but by the response of government and public institutions to the virus.

Perhaps it is time for those who have accepted the pandemic narrative as sold to them by their governments and political leaders to ask a few questions or at least to have sufficient epistemic humility to permit others to ask questions.

Checking the Checkers

An article that I posted in
Conscious Conversation and other FB groups has been ‘fact checked’ and been marked ‘false information’ by the checkers.

While the article has not been censored a notice intended to dissuade people from viewing it now masks the link. For those who have not seen the article here is the link:

https://docs4opendebate.be/en/open-letter/

The basis for labeling this comprehensive article false, an open letter from medical professionals in Belgium, is a single claim that the Fact Checkers summarise as:

“Wearing face masks can cause carbon dioxide toxicity; can weaken immune system”

They assess this as incorrect, arguing that:

“Face mask filters are small enough to keep out infectious droplets containing viruses, but gas molecules such as carbon dioxide and oxygen can still pass through freely. Healthcare workers who wear masks for long periods of time do not demonstrate significant impairment in work performance, as would be the case if masks did cause hypercapnia.”

and that:

“There is no scientific evidence supporting the claim that the use of face masks weakens the immune system.”

The full review can be seen here:

https://healthfeedback.org/claimreview/wearing-face-masks-does-not-cause-hypercapnia-or-affect-the-immune-system/

The review challenges what the article contends about the effectiveness of facemasks and the side effects of wearing facemasks. I decided take the time to review the review, challenge the challenge and fact check the fact checkers. I hope that at least a fe people will take the time to read what I’ve written.

It actually is important.

1. On the Effectiveness of Masks:

The Belgian Doctors Letter argues:

“Oral masks belong in contexts where contacts with proven at-risk groups or people with upper respiratory complaints take place, and in a medical context/hospital-retirement home setting. They reduce the risk of droplet infection by sneezing or coughing. Oral masks in healthy individuals are ineffective against the spread of viral infections.”

The Fact Checkers say:

“The claim does not specify which types of face masks it refers to. In healthcare settings, the two main types of masks used are surgical masks and N95 masks. N95 masks, named for their ability to filter out at least 95% of airborne particles, are also called respirators. Of the two, N95 masks have a tighter fit and thus provide more protection than surgical masks. The purpose of these masks is to reduce contact with infectious droplets (aerosols), which can be generated by someone who coughs or sneezes, and thereby minimize the risk of infection transmission. These masks have become of particular importance given the COVID-19 pandemic.”

There is no disagreement that masks are useful and effective in healthcare settings. The contention by the Belgian doctors that their use by healthy individuals in non-clinical settings is ineffective against the spread of of viral infections is not addressed in this paragraph.

The Fact Checkers note that there are two types of mask used in clinical settings, specifically surgical masks and N95 masks. In government guidance documents we read that surgical masks do “NOT provide the wearer with a reliable level of protection from inhaling smaller airborne particles and is not considered respiratory protection.” It is the N95 masks that filter out at least 95% of airborne particles. (see: https://www.cdc.gov/niosh/npptl/pdfs/UnderstandDifferenceInfographic-508.pdf)

The face coverings used by the public in non-clinical settings are not generally of N95 standard. The fact checkers may be considered somewhat disingenuous in conflating the effectiveness of N95 standard masks with masks used by the general public, which are likely to be of, or below, surgical mask standard.

2. On the Side Effects of Masks:

The Belgian Doctors Letter argues:

“Wearing a mask is not without side effects. Oxygen deficiency (headache, nausea, fatigue, loss of concentration) occurs fairly quickly, an effect similar to altitude sickness. Every day we now see patients complaining of headaches, sinus problems, respiratory problems and hyperventilation due to wearing masks. In addition, the accumulated CO2 leads to a toxic acidification of the organism which affects our immunity. Some experts even warn of an increased transmission of the virus in case of inappropriate use of the mask.

“Our Labour Code (Codex 6) refers to a CO2 content (ventilation in workplaces) of 900 ppm, maximum 1200 ppm in special circumstances. After wearing a mask for one minute, this toxic limit is considerably exceeded to values that are three to four times higher than these maximum values. Anyone who wears a mask is therefore in an extreme poorly ventilated room.”

The Fact Checkers say:

“While it is true that hypercapnia can be life-threatening, the claim that it can be caused by wearing face masks, either surgical masks or respirators, is unsupported and runs contrary to existing evidence. The masks act as a barrier to keep out aerosols, but the materials used are still porous enough to allow gas molecules like carbon dioxide and oxygen to pass through, which are many times smaller than viruses. The size of a carbon dioxide molecule is estimated at about 230 picometers. In contrast, SARS-CoV-2, the causative agent for COVID-19, is about 60 to 140 nanometers[1], which is about 260 to 600 times larger.”

and that:

“The claim is also clearly contradicted by empirical evidence. Healthcare workers wear both types of masks for long hours at work without reported impacts to their work performance. Hypercapnia causes symptoms such as dizziness, confusion, and loss of consciousness, which would have occurred had they been affected by CO2 toxicity.”

But in the letter the Belgian Doctors note that:

“Hospitals have a sterile environment in their operating rooms where staff wear masks and there is precise regulation of humidity / temperature with appropriately monitored oxygen flow to compensate for this, thus meeting strict safety standards.”

Thus neither the masks worn in clinical settings not the conditions in which they are typically worn are comparable with the non-clinical wearing of masks.The Belgian Doctors’ letter also contends that

“some experts even warn of an increased transmission of the virus in case of inappropriate use of the mask.”

This is not contested by the Fact Checkers in fact the Checkers note that

“the [US] CDC does caution that … those who decide to use a mask should also exercise caution when removing the mask, as infectious aerosols may potentially contaminate the external and internal surfaces. The U.S. CDC has advised that cloth masks should be regularly washed, and that individuals should wash their hands and avoid touching their eyes, nose and mouth after removing their mask.”

This is consistent with the advice given in March this year, six months ago, by the UK government and top doctors who warned that members of the public could be putting themselves more at risk from contracting coronavirus by wearing face masks:

Jenny Harries, deputy chief medical officer, said the masks could “actually trap the virus” and cause the person wearing it to breathe it in.

“For the average member of the public walking down a street, it is not a good idea” to wear a face mask in the hope of preventing infection, she added.

Source: https://www.independent.co.uk/news/health/coronavirus-news-face-masks-increase-risk-infection-doctor-jenny-harries-a9396811.html



3. Conclusion:

The conclusion of the Fact Checkers is that

“Further large-scale studies are required to verify the effect of wearing a mask for a longer period …. Until these studies are available, making such claims without supporting scientific evidence is hazardous and dangerous, especially in this very historical moment.”

It may be correct that further large-scale studies are required but given that decisions have been made NOW to mandate the wearing of masks in non-clinical contexts it is surely proper that the implications of wearing such coverings should be discussed in terms of their efficacy, their side effects, their standards and the proper protocols for their use.

It is hazardous and dangerous, especially in this very historical moment, not to have that discussion.

The Web of Love

The following text is from the Web of Love website. I think it is can be particularly helpful:

This is a beautiful and simple visualisation/meditation/prayer. Not selling any ‘religion’ here but it may be worth a try 🙂

The Web of Love is an energetic web which connects the sacred essence of all beings in our world. In the deepest part of ourselves, there is in each of us a beautiful, divine essence which wants nothing more than to love and be loved.

The Web of Love, though invisible to our eyes, interconnects all of us through that deepest essence. It literally surrounds and envelops our planet and all who live here. We are all interconnected through sacred love. It is up to each of us how much we choose to be aware of this connection.

We are all capable of giving and receiving limitless amounts of love. Many of us have forgotten this and ended up feeling alone or uncared for in our lives. The Web of Love reminds us of our true nature. It is a call to join together in sharing the abundance of sacred love that flows within and between us all through consciously connecting with the web.

Connecting with the Web of Love

Breathing the Web. Here is a simple, yet powerful way of connecting with the Web of Love through breath. Close your eyes for a minute and imagine a sparkling, colorful web connecting the deepest essence of all people in the world. You can place your hands over your heart or the center of your chest as you do this. Take a few deep breaths as you open to this beautiful image.

Now, while taking a slow, very deep inhale, silently say to yourself:

Your sacred love flows in to me

Then slowly exhale fully while thinking and feeling:

My sacred love flows out to you.

Repeat this a few times while opening your heart to all the love present. Make sure to fill your lungs completely on the in breath and to exhale fully on breathing out. Breathing sacred love like this for just a minute or less can powerfully shift you into a more open and loving space. Try it now, and invite yourself to really let the love flow.

The “you” in these sacred love statements can be all people in our world, or any individual you choose. For some, it might be easier to start by imagining the one to whom you feel closest in your life. Breathe the web with that special someone in mind and let the love flow between you.

Then with each following breath, envision other people in your life and do the same. When you are ready, envision groups with which you are involved and eventually all people who share our world. This simple breathing exercise can be deeply meaningful in either a personal or a global context. Consider joining with other caring people around the world in doing this.

There may be times when you want to breathe the web, but can’t remember the words above. “Love to me, love to you,” is all you need to feel the web as you breathe. You can create your own sayings, too, with words that are more meaningful to you. The most important element is your intention to connect with all people on this beautiful planet through the Web of Love.

https://www.weboflove.org/index#partner