Ricky's Riffs:

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


Altwork: The Best Work Station in the World? Yes…and No. A Review

September 25th, 2022

The most common complaint I hear in my office is back pain; sometimes accompanied by numbness, burning, or tinging sensations that radiate down their arms and/or legs.

While I tell my patients that the first goal of treatment is to eliminate their pain, I also let them know that it is equally important to identify the cause(s) of the pain. With that understanding, we can make lifestyle modifications to both facilitate the healing process and prevent the symptoms from returning.

My practice demographics

Because I practice in San Francisco, it is not surprising that the majority of my patients work in front of computer screens.

Sitting 8-10 hours (or more!) each day seated at a computer creates a great deal of muscle and joint tension which, over time, can lead to back pain. And these problems have been exacerbated during the pandemic because so many people are working remotely–hunched over their laptops, at kitchen tables, in bed, or on soft living room couches.

So my first recommendation is, stand up! Don’t spend more than 45 consecutive minutes in a seated position. Set your phone timer as a reminder. Get a glass of water, walk around the block (or the room), but do whatever it takes to get you out of your seat. Even better: Get a sit/stand desk, and a high quality ergonomic chair. Moving between seated and standing positions throughout the day will help to prevent the build-up of muscle tension that can lead to pain. It also has the added benefit of helping concentration.Read the rest of this entry »


Covid-19: What the Left (and Right) Got Wrong

July 28th, 2022

Do we ever say we were wrong?

Or have we become so polarized, so isolated in our social media bubbles, that we will maintain the “righteousness” of our positions–bolstered by reams of “evidence,”–forever.

We on the left like to believe that we have sole access to the truth; that it is only the “other side” that wanders in the desert of “alternative facts.” Of course, the other side feels exactly the same way.

But sometimes, the other side is the right side.

And Covid-19 is one of those places. In a variety of ways, “we” were wrong.Read the rest of this entry »


On Creating Sacred Space

April 12th, 2022

We all sense the “feeling” of a space when we enter it. We might feel comforted, or irritated, sedated or energized. Whether it’s a friends living room, a doctor’s office, or a mountain landscape, every space generates a different reaction.

Solidity and emptiness: a paradox

Although the world appears to be solid, modern physics has revealed that it is essentially, and mostly, in fact, empty space. At the subatomic level, the atoms that comprise matter, are both particle and wave, solid as well as vibrational.

As human beings, moving through space and time, we are also both material and energetic. We perceive the material world with our senses: touch, smell, sight, sound, and taste. Our perception of the energetic realm is more subtle and mysterious, often unconscious, but just as real as the material realm.Read the rest of this entry »


Bufo Alvarius and the Entheogenic Revolution

March 4th, 2022

“Relax and take three deep breaths,” my guide instructs. Then, bringing the pipe to my lips: “Now take in little bits of smoke…sips. When your lungs are full, just hold.”

Within seconds of that hold, the room and I dissolve into a vision.

On Entheogenic Medicine

5-MeO-DMT is a powerful psychedelic medicine. Derived from glandular secretions of the Sonoran-desert toad, Bufo Alvarius, it is in the category of psychedelics now called “entheogens.” These are substances, that, when ingested, produce non-ordinary states of consciousness. They can invoke a spiritual experience that many people report as a oneness with the universe, or communion with God.Read the rest of this entry »


Book Review: “Aya: Awakenings” by Rak Razam

November 17th, 2021

There are at least two types of journalism. There is the classic detached, distanced, “objective” journalism. And then there is “Gonzo” journalism; most notably practiced by the likes of Hunter S. Thompson and Tom Wolfe. In this style, there is no need for distance; rather, the journalist is fully immersed in the story and reports it from the inside.

Aya: Awakenings is the story of gonzo journalist Rak Razam. In 2006, Razam was on assignment for Australian Penthouse magazine to report on an ayahuasca conference taking place in the city of Iquitos, Peru, in the Peruvian Amazon.Read the rest of this entry »


Techniques of Transcendence

September 4th, 2021

Who are we? Who am I?

We are daughters and sons, mothers and fathers; we are our jobs, our homes, our educations, our nationalities; we are our ethnicities.

We travel through life attached to these identities; composites built, brick by brick, with the answers to these questions.

These identities are not just useful, but necessary. With the recognition that we have a self that is separate from the world around us, we can divide our experience into “I” and “it,” subject and object, reducing the external world into pieces to be taken apart and put back together again. Our sense of self– of separateness–enables us to navigate the vicissitudes of life.

Yet something nags at us.Read the rest of this entry »


Three Books on Race: A Review

February 18th, 2021

One of the things coinciding with the COVID pandemic, has been the explosive growth of social justice movements, including “Black Lives Matter.” Perhaps it was the spate of police killings of unarmed Black men and women–combined with the racial inequities in health care and economic opportunity laid bare by the pandemic–that sparked the conscience of our nation, leading to mass demonstrations.

As a self-identified “progressive” I sympathized with the cause. But at the same time, I realized there was just so much that I really did not know.Read the rest of this entry »