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Archive for May, 2010

Sacred Food, Elisabeth Luard, Chicago Review Press. Sacred Food is a global view of the diverse and complex traditions people  share, around the world; using food to celebrate, and consecrate our daily need for nourishment, and the mysterious transitions throughout the lifecycle. This book includes stories, myths, and facts with recipes and photographs that invite us to reflect on our personal journey, our family life and shared experiences in community.   Regardless of place or region or religion, the chapters organize the book to mimic a lifecycle we can all relate to; Fertility, Birth, Courtship, and Death; Harvest, Initiation, Marriage, and Remembrance.

As long as you enter this book with an appetite for exploration, you will be sated.

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The Mature Mind, The Positive Power of the Aging Brain, by Gene D. Cohen, MD, PhD, Basic Books.  The late Dr. Gene Cohen shifts the paradigm of aging from focusing on problems and losses to the potential and possibilities for the second half of life. Expanding on the work in developmental psychology by  his former mentor and professor, Erik Erikson, Cohen  identifies  four  additional phases of psychological development in mature life: midlife re-evaluation, “a time of exploration and transition”; liberation, “a desire to experiment” ; the summing-up phase of “recapitulation, resolution, and review”; and “encore,” the desire to go on. The mature mind is more flexible than presumed, and is empowered by  the cultivation of social intelligence. As practical how-to advice Gene  identifies five categories of activity that support this new vista of human potential:  exercise mentally, exercise physically, pick challenging leisure activities, achieve mastery, and establish strong social networks.

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God, Faith, and Health; by Jeff Levin, PH.D, John Wiley  Sons. Dr. Levin brings awareness to the connection and role between spirituality, religion, health, illness, and recovery.  Researchers have begun to realize that expressions of spirituality have measurable effects on our health and well-being.  The first seven chapters examine what aspects of religion and spirituality are good for health, and why.  Each chapter presents scientific evidence that a particular religious dimension or spiritual expression benefits health and well-being.  Like vitamins and nutrients in food, these spiritual factors can promote health or prevent illness.

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The Cure Within
, by Anne Harrington, W.W. Norton traces the history of Americans relationship with the ephemeral aspects of medicine, and how that has evolved into today’s “Wellness” sector. Starting with snake oil and huckster cures, our interests and hopes for wholeness are unraveled, and reveal the inspired and earnest inquiry along with portraits of  the gullible and the  creation of the placebo.

As we continue seeking hoped for silver bullets, some true  turning points occurred along the way that have paved the road for the  brilliant work of Jon Kabat-Zinn at the Stress Reduction Clinic at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center, and the general acceptance of yoga, breathing techniques and other, formerly  “exotic” modalities, which DO help us feel better.

One fascinating turning point involves a band of  Transcendental Meditators coercing a researcher to “study” them, rather than the lab rats that were in his Harvard lab. The doctor agrees, with the stipulation that the meditator ONLY enter the lab at night, and through the back door, so his white coated colleagues would not see.  The physiological benefits he measured were so impressive, the doctor reframed the meditation “techniques” as The Relaxation Response, to help bring relief to anxiety and stress.

The book is insightful and informative. It also offers an interesting perspective on our persistent quest for a health, and wholeness…. which we now call Wellness.

You can purchase The Cure Within

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