Number to Treat




It’s been a while since we had coffee together. I would like to share with you something surprising about the effectiveness of prescription drugs discussed in the four-minute video below.

It has to do with the total number of prescriptions that must be given out for a particular drug in order to find one patient for whom the drug actually works. Said another way, it is the proportion of patients treated with a drug that will experience its benefits.

Here, let’s watch the video

Why is this important? When a physician prescribes a drug, many patients assume that it is necessary to mange their condition and that it will have positive effects since the drug was ostensibly designed to treat their particular ailment. Therefore, they believe that they must follow doctor’s orders and keep taking the drug even though it may not actually be having beneficial effects for them.

What should patients do? When a drug is prescribed, ask your doctor what percentage of patients treated with the drug benefit from it. Ask what you should be looking for to know that the drug is effective in treating your condition. Discuss side effects and any risks if you stop taking the drug because it does not work for you.

There is so much we don’t know about health issues and the myriad angles used by pharmaceutical companies to boost sales. I hope the video was valuable to you. Hope to see you again soon!

Harmony and Health



I have said many times in my various writings that I believe that our true life is spiritual, not physical. Our spirit gives the body life, but when the body withers away, the spirit remains—eternal.

The spirit-self will never die, and there is nothing in this world that can cause it permanent injury. Only we can cause “injuries” to our spirit by our negative, selfish, and destructive mental attitudes, bad behavior, and neglect of those who need our help.

These are failures of character that prevent harmony between spirit, mind, and body. This can cause an imbalance that makes us susceptible to disease. The disharmony is the cause and illness is the resulting effect. Perhaps it is the widespread focus on materialism, rather than spirituality, that contributes to the rise in poor health and disease worldwide.

God will always provide what is necessary for us to fulfill our life plan. With faith in this edict, what need have we for anxiety, worry, stress, or fear? Those who have achieved harmony between spirit, mind, and body are free of these negative states of mind that can contribute to poor health. They are happy and healthy individuals who have chosen a life of spirit over one of materialism.

As Silver Birch has often said, “If the spirit is aright, then the body will be aright.” There likely would be no illness if our spirit, mind, and body were in perfect harmony.

How does one achieve this hard to reach harmony? The anchor, the rock upon which this harmony is built is expression of the spirit. If we are not aware of (or acknowledge) our spirit and its purpose in our physical life, then harmony will remain elusive, and we will have missed the opportunity to have a truly vibrant, healthy, and (spiritually) rewarding life.

Expression of the spirit is one of the main themes of articles published on this web site. Selflessness and a strong desire to help others are the hallmarks of spiritual expression. If we strive to consistently live a life of goodness, virtue, love and compassion, our spirit will begin to express its innate divinity and we will not only achieve harmony between spirit, mind, and body, but also among our fellow human beings.

You may like the following related articles:

Harmony between Spirit, Mind, and Body
The Spiritual Mind

Witnessing the Spirit-Self

For a long time I have wanted to learn how to meditate. Initially, the main reason for my wanting to do so was to slow down my mind. I wanted to free myself from the incessant flow of thought. My hope was that by doing so, I would become more present in every moment throughout the day.

Now my hope is that meditation will help me come closer to my spirit-self, and, as a result, facilitate its expression in my everyday life. These things may be referred to as enlightenment by some. I call it witnessing the spirit-self.

I was superficially aware of a number of different meditation methods and their benefits, and tried to meditate on a number of occasions in the past without success. A big part of the methods I attempted was proper sitting posture. In fact, seemingly volumes are discussed about the nuances of posture, while the actual meditation method is covered in a paragraph or two.

Trying to achieve and maintain correct posture for meditation was a problem for me as I am not at all flexible. My experience sitting in the manor required ranged from extremely uncomfortable to painful. It was a major barrier to meditation for me.

Recently, I decided to look into transcendental meditation (TM). The general description of the technique sounded remarkably easy and required only two 20 minute sessions per day.

I went to , a national organization that presides over TM training through a network of certified instructors. There is a video on the web site that gives a very good overview of TM and its health benefits. The method used for meditation is extremely simple. Anyone can do it without difficulty. For one thing it does not require a specific sitting posture. I encourage those interested in meditation to take a look at the video.

As I dug into the web site, I eventually came across the cost of instruction—on sale from $1,500 to $960! This to learn a method that is so simple and easy to do as to be almost trivial! Furthermore, this simple method puts us in touch with our natural ability to find our inner quiet. I don’t know about you, but I am not going to pay exorbitant fees to be shown how to access the God-given stillness that is already present inside me any more than I would for someone to show me where the fuse box is in my house so I can turn on the lights.

I ran across a book titled Deep Meditation by Yogani that appeared to provide instruction in TM. I got the book and indeed it did describe the TM method along with what to expect, the spiritual benefits, and various phenomena that may arise during practice and how to deal with them. The book was exactly what I had been looking for! Total cost for learning TM: $3.82 for the Kindle book. If you have been wanting to get into meditation, this book will give you a remarkably easy and effective way to do so.

After reading the book, I realize that I have already experienced, by other means, some of the personal and spiritual benefits that can arise from regular TM practice. Examples include positive changes in disposition, becoming more tolerant and accepting of others, becoming more grounded, centered, and relaxed even in stressful situations, and eventually witnessing the spirit-self.

I achieved the above benefits through many years of qigong and tai chi practice. Nevertheless, I feel I can progress much further and faster by adding meditation to my daily practices. There are health benefits from all of these practices, but for me the changes in my outlook on the world around me, and the leap forward in my spiritual awareness were the most rewarding.

Tai chi and qigong are technical practices to cultivate and increase one’s internal energy that require instruction and study to learn. Whereas, TM is not technical and easily accesses our inner stillness. Consequently, in my view, TM is the best and easiest practice for the general public to transform themselves by transcending the outer noise and confusion and cultivating the inner silence that is the spirit-self. I encourage everyone to give TM a try.

Nature’s Nurture Unleashed

Rainbow Chard Credit:

Rainbow Chard Credit:

Those of you who consistently follow this blog know that I am vegetarian. I will not recap here my reasons for becoming a vegetarian. What I would like to do is share with you a recipe that gave me an easy entry into getting my daily fruit and vegetables and eventually becoming a vegetarian.

The recipe below is for my green smoothie—so-called not so much for its color as for some of its ingredients. In fact, it starts out purple and after 15-30 minutes reverts to green.

Until I started having the smoothie every morning, I rarely ate vegetables or fruit in any quantity or with any regularity. Although odd to say for a vegetarian, I really don’t like vegetables, and have historically concentrated on the “meat and potatoes” of my evening meal up until my conversion.

Even though you may have no desire to become vegetarian, this smoothie is a very healthful whole food that allows you to get a big portion of your daily fruits and vegetables in one great tasting shot. This drink is (and must be) prepared in a high powered blender such as a Vitamix. There are a number of reasons for this. High power and high RPMs are needed not only to blast through frozen fruit (which will destroy a conventional blender), but also to break open the plant cells of the fruit and vegetables, release the contents of the cells, and reduce their components to subcellular and micron-sized particles.

Releasing the internal components of the cells gives our digestive system access to them. Chewing intact vegetables, whether cooked or uncooked, is very inefficient. Much of the nutrients they contain is not accessible, because we are unable to digest the plant’s cellulose cell walls. Heating helps but may inactivate important components. Using live, raw fruits and vegetables assures that all of the nutrients, vitamins, and antioxidants are preserved and not modified or inactivated by cooking.

I do not have data, but if I had to guess, I would say that chewing cooked or uncooked vegetables might release at best 20-30 percent of the nutrients, while high speed blending might release on the order of 90 percent. An implication of this is that the amount of nutrients derived from a relatively small amount of high speed-blended raw vegetables is comparable to a relatively large amount of intact vegetables. That is, you would have to eat three to four times more unblended vegetables to get the same amount of nutrients, antioxidants, etc. that are obtained from a given amount of high speed blended vegetables. That’s good for someone like me who doesn’t like vegetables to begin with.

Organic vegetables and fruit should be used to avoid or minimize herbicide, pesticide, and fertilizer residues found on conventionally grown crops. Conventional crops should be vigorously washed with a veggie wash detergent before use. Another benefit of using organic fruits and vegetables is that genetically modified plants are avoided.

For purposes of flavor and stability of the nutrients released from the cells, the smoothie must be ice-cold. This is most easily accomplished by using frozen fruit in the recipe. Otherwise, you will need to substitute one cup of ice for the water.

You may read other opinions, but I strongly recommend that the smoothie be consumed within 30 minutes. The shift in color of the smoothie from purple to green suggests that some oxidation is occurring. Once released from the cell, some of the components may be labile and lose potency with storage, even in the refrigerator.

Generally, the recipe below yields approximately a quart. I drink the whole thing, but you may choose to share it with another person. Some small high speed blenders are now available that make much smaller portions. However, I am not sure that the small volume produced will provide adequate daily amounts of nutrients and fiber.

Of course you are free to experiment with the ingredients, but I recommend that you start with my recipe first because I know it tastes good. Not all combinations of vegetables are pleasing to the taste, and not all are packed with nutrients like those below. If you want to try others, then change only one vegetable at a time in the recipe.

The Green Smoothie*

*My recipe is based on one originally developed more than five years ago by the Green Smoothie Girl as a healthy drink for her family. She has now established an online business selling a line of health products.

Blending times are for the Vitamix set to the highest speed.


2/3 cup filtered or spring water
1/8 lemon (skin, pulp, and seeds included) thoroughly washed before cutting

Add the vegetables below in roughly equal amounts. Enough to loosely fill the blender jar. Tear the leaves into pieces as you might do for a salad. Depending on the size of the leaves, 1-2 leaves of each should be enough. All veggies should be organic.

Collard Greens
Kale (any variety or mix: green, red, black)
Curly or Italian parsley

Protein powder (equivalent to 20 grams of protein)
One banana, peeled

(optional) 1 tablespoon of whole chia seeds for extra fiber and omega 3.

Blend on high speed for approximately 45 seconds.


Add the following to a one cup Pyrex measuring cup:

2/3 cup frozen organic blueberries
Then fill the remainder of the measuring cup with frozen mixed fruit.

Add the fruit to the jar with blended veggies and blend on high speed for 60 seconds. The consistency will be like a thick shake.

(optional) add your daily omega-3 supplement. I use the plant-based Vega Antioxidant Omega Oil Blend. It has the ideal ratio of omega-3 and omega-6.

Note: Do not blend longer than the times indicated, because longer time will cause heating of the mixture which may reduce potency.

Consume within 30 minutes.

Considerations for Choosing Other Varieties of Vegetables

While dark green leafy vegetables like kale and collard are staples for the smoothie, another goal is to introduce a variety of colors into the mix. This is desirable because the different colors reflect a wider array of antioxidants. Some antioxidants are more powerful than others and some plants provide better carriers for vitamins and other nutrients than others. Using a variety of fruits introduces color as well as vegetables like red, yellow, or rainbow chard and red kale.

It would be wise to look up the nutritional values of vegetables you are considering as additions or substitutes to the recipe. For example, the various types of lettuce offer much less than other choices. Beware of strong-tasting vegetables like mustard greens as these will dominate the taste. Bok choy, spinach, dandelion, and carrots are good variants to use periodically.

GMOs (genetically modified organisms) Part 3 – Environmental and Spiritual Considerations

Credit: Fishhawk (Flickr) (CC BY 2.0)

Credit: Fishhawk (Flickr) (CC BY 2.0)

If health and safety are not reasons enough to do whatever is necessary to avoid potentially harmful GM (genetically modified) foods, then environmental and spiritual considerations may provide further impetus. There is a very real threat of GM crops cross pollenating and eventually eliminating unmodified conventional and organic crops. GMOs are already being found in unexpected places near and far from GMO farms (see this article in Scientific American).  Also see section 5.11 of GMO Myths and Truths  for many cases of GMO contamination of native fields and their economic impact.

Action needs to be taken to preserve and protect the genome of natural varieties of plants that were used for genetic modification before it is too late. Remember that the gene modifications in GMOs are irreversible. Should GM varieties eventually supplant the native species, it is unlikely that they can be reverse-engineered to restore the original, native genome of the plant.

DNA, the genetic make-up of organisms contains the instructions for all facets of living things—how they look, how they behave, how the life process functions within, how they reproduce, their function and place in the web of life, and their natural strengths and weaknesses.

All living things are creations of God and as such were created in a specific fashion, for a specific reason, and made to function a certain way in the broader scope of the interconnected ecosystem. Even the weaknesses and limitations of an organism were intentional in order for the organism to best serve its purpose in the global ecology.

Our understanding of the connections between members of the community of life on earth is extremely limited at best, and perhaps more accurately all but non-existent. Our tiny brains cannot begin to comprehend the complexity, interconnectedness, and perfection of creation.

We have proven our ignorance and irresponsibility repeatedly by upsets we have caused in the environment and ecosystem through pollution and by bringing some organisms to extinction, and introducing others to environments where they do not belong. We have raised animals in unnaturally large numbers to feed our appetite resulting in environmental damage such as global warming and health risks such as antibiotic resistant bacterial strains.

The above have occurred primarily due to ignorance, and denial of any negative effects or connections. However, genetic engineering seeks to actually change or modify God’s work. It assumes that we know how to make God’s creations better. This is beyond arrogance and must be an affront to God.

Some might argue that it is acceptable to do genetic engineering because God gave us the intelligence to figure out how to do it. As long as it is used for good, it should not be offensive to Him.

But this misses the point. God gave us intelligence, reason, and conscience so that we can distinguish right from wrong, and recognize the risks and potential consequences of our actions.

In the case of GM plants, where is the good in exposing people to poisons and carcinogens and making them sick? Where is the good in dumping large amounts of herbicides into the environment? Where is the good in an engineered plant whose pollen can be transmitted to native plants by the wind and insects converting them to GMOs and possibly making the native plants extinct? Where is the good in producing genetically altered plants that we may have great difficulty controlling or eliminating (due to herbicide resistance) if we subsequently find them to be a threat to our survival?

This series of articles has attempted to demonstrate that there are serious consequences to producing GM plants from an environmental, human, and spiritual perspective. Companies such as Monsanto that produce and sell GM plants and the herbicides used to farm them continue to deny any dangers and rely on the public’s uninformed or passive acquiescence.

The tragedy is that the greed and irresponsible actions of a few have far-reaching implications for the rest of us and for the planet. We must take action to preserve and protect the natural, God-given make up of all living organisms, and maintain the natural order of the ecosystem. We must protect our families from harm by those who would seek to circumvent nature’s checks and balances for personal gain.

For related articles see:

Nature: A More Expansive Spirituality

An Impediment to Our Spiritual Evolution


GMOs (genetically modified organisms) Part 2 – How to Avoid Them in Your Diet

NonGMO Project Logo

This week’s article discusses how to avoid GM (genetically modified) foods in your diet. Last week described the most common types of modifications introduced into GM food crops and their health risks.

If you are concerned about the safety of GMOs, how can GMO-containing foods be identified? The short answer is that they generally cannot be identified because there is no law requiring producers to label GMO-containing food products. By all accounts, GM foods are very widespread in the US food supply. If you read the ingredients on packaged and processed food products, you will find that most contain soy and/or corn or their derivatives among other GM foods.

Given that 88 percent of corn and 94 percent of soy are from GM plants, then one might have to stop eating many of the processed and packaged foods to avoid GMOs. Packaged and processed foods are a way of life for the majority of people these days because of their convenience.

Consequently, avoiding GMOs may be a tall order that may be difficult for many. It requires discipline and a strong commitment. Considering the fact that your health and that of your children may be at stake, it is worth the sacrifice?

If certain GM foods, especially corn and soy, are ubiquitous and unlabeled, then how can they be avoided? The answer is to look for foods that are labeled to indicate that they do not contain GMOs. However, there are only two such labels of which I am aware that are reliable. They are described below.

Organic Logo  The simplest approach to avoiding GMOs is to eat only organic foods and food products. Part of the USDA criteria for labeling a food as organic is that it must not contain GMO ingredients. In other words, the seal at left means the food is not GMO. Preparing your own meals with organic ingredients is the best way to assure that you are eating safe, chemical-free foods.

For a more detailed explanation of the USDA organic label, as well as other labels that are, and are not, regulated by the USDA go here.

Fresh produce in the US often has a little sticker or bundle band with a number on it. The first digit of the number allows you to determine whether or not the fruit or vegetable is organic. A number beginning with nine is organic. However, these stickers do not allow one to determine if non-organic foods are GMO. This is something that must change.

Food brands that are not organic but made with nonGMO ingredients can be identified by the NonGMO Project logo shown at the beginning of this article. The NonGMO Project provides an independent assessment of foods for the presence of GMOs. On their web site, you can search specific brand names to see which products have been verified as free of GMOs.

In addition to organic fresh and frozen produce, there is a wide variety of organic prepared foods available. You can download a nonGMO shopping guide for your computer and an app for your smart phone at the following link: . The shopping guide provides the same listing as the nonGMO Project web site of brand names offering one or more products that have been verified to be GMO-free. When shopping you still need to look for the USDA organic seal or the nonGMO Project logo since not all products from some brand names are nonGMO.

There is another problem developing as a result of the growing demand for nonGM food products that needs to be addressed. Companies wanting to convert their products to nonGMO are finding it difficult to find sufficient sources of nonGM food crops, especially corn and soy. The organic farming industry currently caters primarily to individuals.

The number and size of farms growing GM crops exceeds the number and acreage of organic and nonGMO farms by a huge margin. It was estimated in 2009 that only 0.9 percent of the farmland acreage worldwide used organic farming methods. This means that organic crops are in relatively limited supply. This will become a more and more serious problem as the demand for nonGMO foods grows in response to rejection of GMOs by the public.

The increasing demand for nonGMO foods provides an opportunity for farmers to get out in front of this issue by abandoning GMO farming and returning to traditional, more eco-friendly farming methods, especially organic cultivation. Although profits may go down some in the short term as a result, farmers who make the change will have the peace of mind and satisfaction that they are doing what is right and not hurting people or animals that consume their products.

Organic farming methods are earth-friendly in part because they use naturally occurring fertilizers and pesticides rather than chemically produced and formulated compounds that pollute and poison. A Google search provides a plethora of information about organic farming methods and benefits for those interested in the topic.

Applying the above methods to identify nonGMO foods may require some changes in how and where you shop for food for your family. However, the extra effort will be worth it in the long run. You will have greatly reduced exposure of your family to potentially harmful chemicals, and if you choose to go organic, you will have also reduced harm to the broader ecosystem and the planet. Over time, I hope to see greedy and irresponsible companies like Monsanto put in check by the caring and responsible actions of the public.

Part 3 of the series on GMOs will examine some environmental and spiritual factors.

GMOs (genetically modified organisms) Part 1 – What Are They and What’s All the Fuss?



There is a major health and environmental threat that too many, at least in the US, know little about. I am referring to GMOs (genetically modified organisms), specifically food crops and food products.

Genetic engineering in general, including the production of GM (genetically modified) plants involves altering the genome, the DNA of an organism, by introducing foreign genes and/or amplifying existing genes. The process is imprecise, irreversible, and oftentimes causes unexpected results. The most common strategy involves introducing or amplifying genes that produce high levels of pesticides inside the plant cells, and others that confer the plant with a high resistance to external application of herbicides.

As a scientist, and perhaps to those who have an affinity for technology, the idea of altering the genes of food crops to increase productivity sounds appealing. However, the theoretical appeal quickly dims when you dig deeper into the gene modification process, its risks, and its potential consequences.

The theoretical rationale for genetic engineering research includes seeking to improve health and quality of life and improving productivity in the cultivation of food crops to increase the food supply. Superficially, this sounds good, but what is the down side? First, the genetic modifications have not resulted in increased crop yields. Second, the GM crops and food products you eat contain unnaturally high levels of the plant pesticides and herbicides. Finally, the purpose of conferring the GM plants with resistance to herbicides (commonly referred to as Roudup Ready plants) is so that large amounts that will kill normal, unmodified crops, can be applied to reduce or eliminate competition by weeds more effectively. This means that high concentrations of herbicides are being introduced into the environment and affecting our water supply, the soil, and other organisms that come in contact with them.

Further, the GM, Roundup-ready plants have been shown to have elevated levels of the herbicide inside the plant tissues. In addition, if the herbicides are not thoroughly removed from the surface of GM crops during processing, then we are ingesting even more of the chemicals. How many of us would knowingly eat pesticides and herbicides or feed them to our children?

As was the case for cigarettes for decades, Monsanto, and other companies that engineer and sell GM plants and the herbicides used to farm them, say they are safe with little research to back up such claims. In fact, there is growing evidence to the contrary. An overview of the potential health risks associated with the farming of GM crops can be found here .  A database of research studies and articles can be found here.

A life span study in mice who were fed a diet containing approximately 11-30 percent GM corn found high frequencies of premature death, breast cancer, liver and kidney damage, and a transgenerational reduction in fertility (a separate, more recent confirmatory study in rats can be found here). The findings of the original life span study in mice have been challenged as have short term (90 day) studies by the genetic engineering companies that suggest GMOs are safe.

We know from the tobacco story that 90 days is not nearly enough to reveal harmful effects of exposure to carcinogens. Yet, 90 days of exposure is all that is required by the FDA in order for approval to be given. However, the pesticides and herbicides associated with farming GM crops are known poisons and carcinogens; shouldn’t that raise a red flag and demand more extensive study?

There is an expanding variety of GM food crops currently on the market, including crops such as soy, corn, potatoes, cotton (oil), canola (oil), sugar from sugar beets, zucchini, yellow squash, Hawaiian papaya, and alfalfa among others. To determine whether or not specific plants/crops have been genetically altered and approved for sale, see the database found here.

It is estimated that approximately 75 percent of all corn and 95 percent of soy found in foods today in the US is GM. Both of these are ubiquitous in processed and prepared food products in this country. They are also widely used as feeds for meat and dairy animals.

Some countries in Europe have banned GM produce and food products. In the US there is a strong lobby by the chemical and genetic engineering companies against simply labeling GM foods. A lot more research is needed, especially long term studies to adequately assess the health risks of GMOs. For my own part, I am not waiting. I reject GM food sources from a scientific, health, and spiritual perspective.

Part two of this topic will address how to avoid GM foods.

The Night is Too Long

_DSC0697 Super Moon 5x5

Super Moon

Copyright 2013 by Blair Atherton

What goes through the mind of someone who is dying slowly over weeks, months, or years of a disease like cancer? We try to imagine what they think about, but we can’t really. We try to find things to talk about to take their mind off of the pain, sorrow, and anxiety, but we can’t be sure they are listening.

What goes through a person’s mind when they know they will not get better, only weaker. What goes through someone’s mind when they realize that their independence is gone and they can never go home again? What goes through a person’s mind when they know they must leave their loved ones behind not knowing if they will ever see them again?

We do our best to make them comfortable, bring them foods they like, and celebrate their lives through old family photos. They may cry in response to old familiar songs that elicit a host of fond memories of the past. We try to tell them that they should be happy and thankful for these things remembered. Still they grieve for days gone by that cannot be relived. They lament the empty days ahead in a life fading away slowly and methodically.

We see their jaw and lips quiver as they reach for a bite of food. Their hands shake as they reach for their glass. We struggle to conceal our sorrow in seeing someone who was so strong and steady, now so tentative and frail. We try to be strong but sometimes after we’ve gone home, the night is too long and we break down. But that doesn’t matter because the night is always too long for them.

We want very much to somehow ease their transition, but we don’t know how. So we go back to be with them the next day and the next in the hope that our presence will somehow make them feel better and less anxious. All we can really do is let them know how much we love them.

What is going through their minds? We try to imagine, but we can’t. The night is too long.