Spring/Summer 2019 Book Reviews
Melanie St. Ours
The Simple Guide to Natural Health: From Apple Cider Vinegar Tonics to Coconut Balms, 150+ Home Remedies for Health and Healing
Simon and Schuster, NY, NY 2018
Clinical herbalist Melanie St. Ours is passionate about self-care. In The Simple Guide to Natural Health she shares cost-effective, natural remedies that you can make at home to awaken your senses, encourage prevention, and safely heal and support your health. An often overlooked but super important bonus of making herbal medicines at home and cooking healing foods is that as you create with plant materials you connect with nature. Working with the plants and their energy as you create your own medicines is an empowering part of self-care. To bring the restorative power of nature into your home permanently, consider adding an aloe or spider plant friend to your living space.
While not all the recipes in this guide are one-ingredient simples, they all are straightforward and easy to prepare. When you use a single ingredient recipe for healing, you are following the minimum effective dose principal. As you care for yourself and your family, it’s good to remember simple is not only easiest, it’s also probably best. Dandelions are a wonderful example of a one-ingredient healer. The roots support liver function and the flowers can be infused into oil or eaten, while the leaf encourages urination to relieve puffiness and bloating. This makes dandelion leaf tea an amazing choice if you wake up puffy from water retention. Simply add 2 tablespoons of dried leaf to a quart jar, cover it with 2 cups of hot water and let steep for 20 minutes. Strain into a mug. Couldn’t be easier, if you have dried dandelion in your well-stocked pantry, that is. If you don’t, but have access to fresh dandelion leaves, you can bring a half cup of fresh leaves to a boil, then gently simmer for 15 minutes or until the leaves are wilted and the water is greenish. Strain the tea to drink, and eat the spent leaves if you choose to. Knowing how to get quick relief from this little jewel of nature is truly empowering. As St. Ours says, “You’ll know you’ve really become an herb enthusiast when you catch yourself smiling at the heroic little dandelions pushing their way up through the cracks in the sidewalk.”
Finding Still Waters: The Art of Conscious Recovery
Still Waters Pond, Voluntown, CT 2017
Primarily a visual artist, Amy LaBossiere decided writing would be the best medium to share the experiences and miracles she encountered while caring for her elderly father-in-law. Hoping to help others with her story, she realized as the project emerged it wasn’t what she originally intended. The creative voice inside her had another story to tell. Finding Still Waters is Amy’s very human reflection of an artist learning to trust life’s synchronicities. The poetry accompanying the photographs of her dimensional work is as thought provoking, revealing and enlightening as the work itself. Her story, like her art, is multi-layered. Unabashedly she removes layer after layer, revealing a seeker, an art maker as healer, and a person consciously evolving and coming to terms with addictive behavior.
Of course there is no such thing as a stereotypical addict, but if there was, Amy seemed to be the opposite of that to the outside world and to herself. She had a good job, showed up for work every day, and exhibited her art. Her nightly glass of wine, or two, or bottle, was just a good way of winding down from the day’s annoyances. It’s obvious the intuitive creator inside Amy is a force bound and determined to express itself. Her artwork titled “I can stop anytime I want” shows two mannequin arms and blazing red hair sticking out of a 5-foot tall acrylic cylinder completely filled with wine corks. Believing her creation was whimsical and not a metaphor of a person struggling with alcoholism, Amy even titled it a self-portrait, a tongue in cheek way to say to the world, “Yup, I like wine.”
Amy writes this memoir as a sober woman. She’s eager to teach what she’s learned. Her soul mission, as far as she can tell, is “to inspire self-awareness for others and be of service in the world through conscious living.” She and her husband are caretakers of Still Waters, an unspoiled family property located in the Last Green Valley, a contiguous farm and forest region in Connecticut known for its lack of sprawl. Inspired by the peace and constant change of the Still River landscape, Amy and her husband create art and share their oasis with others. Though life at Still River sounds idyllic, it’s still real life. There was a devastating fire, and a relapse for Amy. She starts each new day like everyone else in sobriety, one day at a time. Rather than allow her mind to re-run highlights of past imperfections, Amy stays present to her whole true story without lingering in the cloudy energy of the past. She creates her future with gratitude from the sunny porch of Still Waters. What could be more artful than that?
Andrea Sarubbi Fereshteh
In the Company of Trees: Honoring Our Connection to the Sacred Power, Beauty, and Wisdom of Trees
Adams Media, Avon, CT 2019
Trees silently watch over us, providing a natural connection to spirit. You may even have a favorite tree. Andree Sarubbi Fereshteh has many, and In The Company of Trees she shares beautiful photographs and wisdom stories of treasured trees from all over the world. The flowering dogwood outside your door, or in a nearby park, may be home to the Dogwood People. This tiny tribe of people watch over and protect young children and the elderly according to Native American Cherokee. The harmonious Dogwood People teach the traditions of nature and encourage doing acts of kindness without expecting anything in return.
Some cultures give language for the ephemeral gifts trees provide. The symphonic sound of leaves, their subtle shimmer, whoosh and silence is psithurism, Greek for “the sound of rustling leaves in the wind.” Komorebi is a Japanese word that describes the magical experience of sunlight as it dances through a canopy of trees. Ko means “tree” and moreru means “to come through.” Warm shards of sunlight filtered through musically rustling leaves is one of nature’s loveliest connecting healing experiences. Just thinking about it can make you happy.
Trees can also evoke mystery. Along an estate road in Northern Ireland, 150 beech trees intertwined and entangled, creating a dark tunnel said to be haunted by the Grey Lady (of pop-culture fame on the television show Game of Thrones). And a sunken forest exists along the coast of New Hampshire, which only appears under certain conditions. The forest, a network of mysterious submerged stumps still featuring all their rings, are several thousand years old and have only been seen five times in recent history.
There is no denying that humans do devastating damage to trees and their ecosystems. Irresponsible logging and clear cutting for building, and indiscriminate pesticide application wipe out not only forests, but also the myriad of bugs, insects, fungi and other life forms that survive because of their relationship with trees. Human beings are of course included in the list of species that depend on trees for survival. Thankfully many people are good protectors of trees. The trees in your yard and the ones you pass everyday as you walk in the woods or down the street sometimes get overlooked as being extraordinary, but they are. Try to take time to notice them.
Grow A New Body: How Spirit and Plant Nutrients can Transform Your Health
Hay House, Carlsbad, CA 2019
Your body is marvelously designed to grow and regenerate, at any age. This exciting lab-researched news is ancient shamanic wisdom. How did the shaman know? “They asked the plants,” says medical anthropologist Alberto Villoldo. Villoldo combines science and shamanic traditions in Grow a New Body, a seven-day spirit, body and brain self-repair program called One Spirit Medicine that’s repeated every three months. The program can almost be called anti-Paleo, as it views proteins as the “new sugar” and advocates significantly limiting protein intake. Of course sugar gets lumped in with the no-no’s, too.
Amazingly, you can grow a new body regularly, according to Villoldo. But first you need to clear out the garbage in your system. Imagine a city where everyone puts out the trash on trash day, but the garbage truck workers never show up. More trash goes out the next day, and the next. Add in environmental pollutants and the anger of residents who constantly encounter the piles of festering garbage, and what a mess! The habit of eating excess sugar and excess protein creates a similar toxic load in the body. Cells are dumping garbage that’s not getting removed, so the toxins remain, floating around, creating havoc in the gut and going places they don’t belong, like up to the brain.
Among the healthiest people on Earth, the blue zone Okinawans eat the equivalent of one egg or one piece of fish per month, suggesting that we don’t need as much protein as we are lead to believe. Another myth dispelled in Grow A New Body is that we should avoid fat. Instead, your brain and body need fat every day, and it’s where most of your calories should come from. Have it in healthy forms, like nuts, avocados, seeds and hummus.
Villoldo’s self-repair plan also reveals many hidden benefits of certain foods. Did you know that some plant foods provide your DNA with instructions? The codes activated by a fresh green juice with parsley, ginger and lemon repair organs and restore brain health. The best choices to help your gut and brain are the cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, and mustard greens, which is second only to Brussels sprouts in cancer prevention. These superstar foods trigger a specific protein that is able to protect every organ and tissue in the body. Once activated, it gets to work detoxifying and creating anti-inflammatory agents switching on the repair system of the body. Villoldo compares this to Navy SEALs sitting around waiting at a military base, then called to action to go into the DNA and clean out the (free radical) terrorists. Once the mission is accomplished, they remain on alert after returning to the cell membrane. Bok choy and kale are two more veggies in this powerhouse category, and both are great additions if you’re making a green juice. Use bluer kale when you find it; like most fruits and veggies, the more colorful it is, the more nutritious it is.
By detoxifying your brain and gut with superfoods, you will start working with your cell mitochondria to switch off the biological ageing clock and start repairing your pre-existing conditions. Exploring techniques for working with your luminous energy field, slowly you will upgrade your brain to shed disempowering stories from the past and toxic emotions trapped in the body that keep you repeating the tragic tales and health stories of your family. Eventually you will grow a new body that keeps open the detox pathways in every cell of your body to avoid disease, and keeps you connected to spirit, to Earth and to a renewed sense of purpose in your life.
Painting Peace: Art in A Time of Global Crisis
Shambhala, Boulder, CO 2018
Peacemaker and Buddhist scholar Kazuaki Tanahashi is an inspiration to anyone working for peace and justice. Founder of international organizations including World Without Armies and Plutonium Free Future, his art and his writing is social activism. Using prose, poetry and art, Painting Peace is Tanahashi’s humble self-portrait of a man whose life’s work is to ease the suffering of the world and celebrate all that is good. His deep understanding of humankind is evident in the universality of his calligraphic art. Exhibited around the world, his work includes the iconic No nukes! poster, and the “Circle of All Nations,” an enormous single multi-colored circle painted on a giant five-panel canvas using the world’s largest brush. Created to celebrate the United Nations fiftieth anniversary, the circle symbolizes all people coming together. Tanahashi says he knew from the beginning the circle had to be large, multicultural and multicolored, and, he reasoned, “If we were going to paint a giant circle, why not build the largest brush in the world?” Two architect friends helped him design the 6-foot high, 150-pound brush that needed four artists to hold its four handles.
Tanahashi’s art informs as it questions. A piece titled “Can We Stop The Violence Non-Violently?” addresses the common belief that humans are violent by nature. Often those in power work to shape the thinking of the citizenry through propaganda of cultural, religious, gender or ideological supremacy and an education system that hides the bloodshed and disturbing reality of suffering for many people. When earnest diplomacy and negotiations fail, whether by a government or groups of citizens, then what? The general public is left to simplistically consider two options, “Shall we strike, or shall we not strike?”
There is nothing life-affirming about weapons. By design, they exist to injure or kill others. They don’t produce food or medicine, they are environmental pollutants and they blow up villages and the people in them. The weapons industry and the infrastructure that supports it require an unfathomable amount of energy. The single largest consumer of energy in the world is the US Department of Defense. Bombers and aircraft vehicles are not designed to conserve energy. The defense industry and government, including parliaments and congresses, are closely linked in a reinforcing relationship. They protect their mutual interests and enormous defense budgets continue to expand. Nobody seems to be able to stop it, reverse it or even slow it down. Countries make money by selling weapons that kill people. It sounds outrageous, and it is. Tanahashi’s response is determined empathy for the whole world.
Until the middle of the twentieth century most everyone on Earth assumed humanity would go on forever. We now have weapons that can destroy the entire planet, environmental catastrophes, and political policies that value national survival over human survival. Where do we go from here? Tanahashi feels one of the goals of an artist is to “transform people’s consciousness in the direction of a world in which we do not have to fear global suicide.” The Ten Millennium Future is a project he conceived to make the present time a turning point for change. The project asks the question “Where are we all going?” Our actions and thoughts ought to be for long-term global survival instead of short-term corporate interests. How helpful it would be if each person currently on the planet embraced Tanahashi’s definition of awakening, which is “to realize the infinite value of each moment of your own life as well as of other beings, then to continue to act accordingly.” We need to listen to and respect all ideas for an ultra-long-term future, including those of young people, specialists and leaders. Can there really be a world without war, without poverty, without oppression? Perhaps no one alive today will live in a time of great global peace. That should not stop us. If we choose to, we can roll up our sleeves and take on the issues of a future that will exist beyond ourselves. We can envision and humbly participate in actualizing a world safe and peaceful for all sentient beings. Like Tanahashi, we can use our gifts and talents to do the great work of peace.
Gail Lord is a freelance writer living in Massachusetts. Please send book review copies to 51 North Street, Grafton, MA 01519 or email socbookreviewer.com.