Ricky's Riffs:

Random Thoughts on Travel, Education, Health, and the World in General


On Impermanence and Illusion

June 25th, 2020

We spend so much of our lives constructing stories; narratives to make sense of our worlds. And we usually cast ourselves as the heroes, the center pieces of what are, all too often, tall tales.

As I watch my boarded-up city of San Francisco slowly re-open, I know that it will not be what it was before. Like a tidal wave washing over the city, sweeping away lives and livelihoods, COVID-19 has destroyed so much.

I, like millions of others, was comfortable with my illusions of stability and permanence. I have had a practice for more than 30 years on quaint, tourist friendly, Union Street. I was part of an integrative, holistic health center with chiropractors, acupuncturists, massage therapists and many other types of practitioners who have come and gone over the years. But now, just a few years from retirement, I am caught in the wake of a flood.Read the rest of this entry »


Some Early Thoughts on a Global Pandemic

March 23rd, 2020

We have suddenly been thrust into a global pandemic. Seemingly overnight, our lives have changed. Many of us are on lockdown, prohibited from leaving our homes except to go to the grocery store, the pharmacy, or the doctor. We must now maintain “social distance” to prevent infection, staying at least six feet from others.

There were already signs, back in December 2019, of a strange viral disease originating in the filthy live animal markets of China’s Wuhan province. Then it was seen in South Korea, and Japan. Somehow it jumped to Italy, and spread throughout Europe. All the while, from our “distant” perch–despite alarms being sounded by infectious disease and public health experts–our leaders looked on, and did nothing.Read the rest of this entry »


A Meditation on the Middle East Conflict, Islamophobia and the Need for Global Healing

October 12th, 2014

The Middle East is imploding. Israel has “mowed the lawn” in Gaza, wreaking havoc on the Palestinian population. Hamas, aggressively or defensively, has launched hundreds of rockets, their goal to terrify the Israelis. Assad has slaughtered over 100,000 Syrians. ISIS pushes to establish a modern Caliphate, killing its way to the very gates of the ancient capital of Babylon. At the same time Afghanistan is collapsing, Libya has become a failed state, Egypt is under martial control once again, and the Arab Spring has given way to a cold, uncertain winter.

One major effect of these conflicts has been the worldwide rise of Islamophobia. Read the rest of this entry »


Magic and Healing: An Interlude

October 28th, 2013

My good friend and colleague, Paul, strongly disagreed with my last blog. In that article I described what I believed to be a paradigm shift taking place in health care: a cultural movement away from allopathic medicine, now our dominant mode of healing, to a medicine that is more inclusive and integrative.Read the rest of this entry »


Mindfulness: Stress Reduction, Path to Enlightenment, or a New Orientalism?

January 14th, 2013

People are talking about mindfulness as if it’s the latest fashion trend: mindful eating, mindful communication, mindful movement, even mindful business management. The explosion of books, CD’s and videos on the subject now includes weekend seminars and lengthy meditation retreats. Leaders of this new field articulate the merging of mindfulness, technology, and ancient wisdom traditions to rapt audiences. Academies are dedicated to its study. An industry has been born.

But what exactly is mindfulness?Read the rest of this entry »


Levels of Healing, Part Two: Psycho-Energetic Dimensions

November 26th, 2012

With seemingly clear boundaries between our bodies and the world through which we move, it’s easy to feel separated from everything outside our skin.  But as physical, chemical, emotional, and energetic beings, this perception belies our true nature.Read the rest of this entry »


Travel, Fear, and Misperception: Burma as Destination and Metaphor

April 13th, 2011

I first traveled to Burma in 1996, co-leading an educational tour with a group of eighteen students from New College of California.  Burma had just opened to the west after thirty years and Aung San Suu Kyi, the democratically elected president, who had been under house arrest by the military regime since her election in 1988, had just been released.Read the rest of this entry »