Summer 2015 Book Reviews

Susan Stiffelman
Parenting with Presence: Practices for Raising Conscious Confident Caring Kids
New World Library, Novato, CA 2015

Susan Stiffelman, parent educator and therapist, is on a mission to change the world, one child at a time. Like many, she found raising her child to be the greatest transformational experience of her life. Parenting with Presence is a guidebook inspired by her experiences and those of her clients to connect us with the spiritual side and through the ups and downs of raising a child. As our child grows we grow, and even though our child is often our greatest teacher, it is not our child's job to raise us. By acting not as a parental autocrat, but instead assuming the role of captain of the ship, we create safe, reasonable, and even flexible, boundaries for our child based on our knowledge and intuition of what is best for our family. Parenting with Presence acknowledges that we each come to the role of parenting as amateurs, and encourages us to be joy-filled and gentle with ourselves as we find our way. Included are four steps for a good apology, tips for building a tribe, and suggestions for avoiding the pitfalls of parental guilt.

A question and answer format offers practical options for how to handle common parent-child situations. To a sassy tween's disrespectful eye rolling, Stiffelman suggests trying not to take it personally, and to not give it any more meaning then an ineffective way for the child to announce she wants to ignore your request. Remain calm and offer a do-over. For the parent having difficulty remaining calm when a child misbehaves, she suggests imagining you're in a little boat, relaxed and just drifting along, when another boat crashes into yours. Your blood pressure rises as you immediately look to see who is steering the other boat when you discover the boat is empty; there is no captain. You calm down as you realize no one intended to hit your boat and disturb your tranquility. Similarly, a misbehaving child is often just adrift in a sea of his own challenges, and his actions are just a misguided way to get his needs met. A child that is seen, acknowledged and understood is on the path to becoming a competent and caring adult.



Orianna Fielding
Unplugged: How to Live Mindfully in a Digital World
Carlton Books, New York 2015

Digital technology connects us to a world outside our own, a global community of creativity, thoughts and ideas. Yet increasingly, our interaction with people inside our small screens leaves us feeling less connected. Unplugged explores this love/hate relationship with digital technology and is a roadmap for balancing face-to-face relationships and an online life. FOMA, or Fear Of Missing Out, is the reason many people constantly check social media and text messages. This overabundance of screen time results in "phubbing" (phone snubbing — the practice of ignoring others to use a smart phone in a social setting) and also what the American Academy of Pediatrics terms "Facebook depression." A study at the University of Michigan found time spent on Facebook correlates negatively to well being, and viewing enhanced selfies and happy postings of others can create "compare and despair" syndrome. If tech addiction is part of your life, it's time for a digital detox. Unplugged offers steps for a one hour, four hour, and up to seven-day detox. You can start with a tech-free taster by simply putting your phone on silent mode or leaving it in a drawer for sixty minutes. Talk to your co-workers instead of sending emails. Meal times are for food and conversation; get the devices off the table. And proudly be part of the percentage of Americans who do not take their phones to bed with them!



Annie Karpf
How To Age
Picador, New York, New York 2014

When movie icon Audrey Hepburn was told her photograph would be retouched, she protested, "Oh no, I've earned those lines!" Compare that with a Glee cast member who had Botox at age 18. Walmart now offers a cosmetic line that includes anti-aging creams for girls 8 to 12 years old! As a culture we are so enamored with staying young that getting older is treated as something to be resisted and denied. How To Age explores this modern taboo of aging and argues that this inevitable part of our human condition can be a robust and enriching time of immense growth. The idea that one's appetite for life automatically fades as years pass is simply not true, as creativity and vitality are not age-dependent. The challenge of aging is no more than the challenge of living. As Cicero said in his treatise on old age, those "who have no resources in themselves for securing a good and happy life find every age burdensome."



Joan Borysenko
The PlantPlus Diet Solution: Personalized Nutrition for Life
Hay House, Carlsbad, CA 2014

The PlantPlus Diet Solution asks your inner scientist to come to life. Developed by cell biologist and health psychologist Joan Borysenko for herself and her husband, this personalized lifestyle program begins with a 28-day reboot, and uses a Medical Symptoms Checklist to gauge progress. The optimal food for you is personal, based on your metabolism and chemistry. Who better to discover that than you! The up-to-date nutritional information helps you determine the best foods for your body. But regardless of metabolism and food sensitivities, the most important dietary change any of us can make is to eliminate fake foods from our lives. Creating a healthy relationship with wholesome, mostly organic, food is an important way to start cleaning up our acts. By treating leftovers like gold, you eliminate food waste. Forty percent of the food in the United States goes uneaten every year; that's $2,275 for the average family of four! Organic produce becomes less costly when you don't waste it by throwing it away. Use leftover vegetables in an omelette; take five minutes to bake the apples you bought on sale weeks ago. Dr. Borysenko includes pointers and recipes for those needing inspiration in the kitchen. Recipes include The Best Roasted Cauliflower with garlic and cayenne pepper, and very low-carb high-nutrient Golden Almond Bread. While the PlantPlus Diet Solution is a lifestyle change for self-care, Borysenko realizes not everyone can commit to the total makeover. Her version of PlantPlus Lite consists of only two changes: eliminate anything containing "white foods" (such as sugar and flour) and eat a pound of veggies plus a couple of whole fruits every day. These changes alone will likely help you improve your health and lose weight.



Kelle Sutliff
Listen Up! The Other Side is Talking
TriCircle Publishing, 2014

Medium Kelle Sutliff knows it doesn't matter if a person trying to communicate with you is living or dead; to hear what's being said you need to pay attention and listen! In Listen Up! The Other Side is Talking Sutliff teaches simple practices anyone can use to open up to spirit communication. She shares her process of doing private readings, as well as her work with detectives and groups such as Boston University's Cold Case Collaborative to find missing persons. Sutliff says paying attention is the key to connect with the gift of inner knowing. The important first step is to get quiet enough to listen. Sutliff relies on her "daily cup of calm," a very simple three-minute grounding, breathing and clearing exercise. Also important is a willingness to acknowledge hunches; don't let them go to spiritual voicemail, act on them! Regularly notice how often your intuition is correct. Working in person with a teacher is a great help in developing psychic ability, and online development classes are readily available. Joining a psychic circle is not only a great place to practice but also a space that's full of encouragement. Also, practice on friends and family. The more you do this, the more accurate you become.

Psychic communication needs a clear receptive mind. A clear dwelling is equally helpful. Create a warm and inviting living space; eliminate "dirty energy" using a lavender candle, a white sage stick and your prayers to God, the Universe, or whomever you consider holy. Light the candle in the center of your home, then state your intention that all negative energy leave, and your home stay balanced and healthy. With the candle still lit, burn the sage, walking from room to room. When finished, let the sage go out and leave the candle burning. Blessing your home in this easy way not only clears stale energy, but it is an active reminder that your living space is a sacred place where friends from this side or the other feel comfortable and welcomed to visit you.



Alberto Villoldo
One Spirit Medicine: Ancient Ways to Ultimate Wellness
Hay House, Carlsbad, CA 2015

As shaman and teacher, medical anthropologist Alberto Villoldo faced a life altering decision after learning from medical experts during an extreme health crisis that his body was full of toxic bacteria, viruses and worms contracted during his years of research work in Indonesia, Africa and South America, and that his brain was riddled with parasites. Gravely ill, he was told to immediately seek the best medical care available and get his name on a liver transplant list. Instead, he trusted in the ways of the shaman and returned to the Amazon to begin his healing. One Spirit Medicine is a prescriptive journey to wellness, the model that saved Villoldo's life. It combines the powerful spiritual medicine of the shaman complemented with Western medical knowledge. A key component of this healing system is the vision quest, which includes fasting along with meditation to rejuvenate the body's self-repair system and reconnect the seeker to spirit, nature and the invisible world. A nutrient dense plant-based diet using superfoods, such as broccoli, avocados and berries, helps detox and reboot our systems.

According to the latest research, most of our present-day diseases begin in our gut. Yet our current medical system rarely addresses symptoms of anxiety, brain fog or depression by looking at the quality of food we ingest, relying instead on prescriptions to cure our ailments. America's healthcare system is actually a disease care system, and Villoldo drives this point home relaying his experience taking his mother to the doctor on the same day he took his dog to the veterinarian. The first thing the doctor asked was what medications his mother was taking, while the first thing the veterinarian asked was what was he feeding his dog!

While Villoldo needed over a year to completely detoxify his brain and body and return to good health, he stresses that even small changes are very beneficial. A tablespoon of coconut oil in the morning and one again in the afternoon is "jet-fuel for the brain." Removing sugar from your diet for just 18 hours (6pm till noon the next day) wakes up the body's rejuvenation system and detoxifies cells. With this healing system, including super nutrients and energy medicine "we can get our health span to equal our life span."



Preston Bentley
Meditation Made Easy
Adams Media, Avon, MA 2015

The benefits of meditation are numerous and well documented; the deep rest strengths the immune system, replaces tension with a feeling of well being, and reduces the heart rate, blood pressure, and even cholesterol, as the body and mind is calmed. To derive all this simply from breathing sounds great, so why doesn't everyone do it? Meditation Made Easy suggests knowing why you want to meditate can help you establish a practice. Are you a health seeker who wants better sleep and increased energy? Maybe you're a creative thinker who wants to work with greater flow and release past bad habits and memories? Or are you a performance enhancer who wants to develop calm under stress and improve memory? Following any of the fifty included meditation exercises for just a few minutes daily will help you reach your goals. Reach out to a friend with Phone Call Meditation, calm your mind with Dismissing Thoughts Meditation, regroup to a hidden place as you cup your hands over your eyes, or stimulate your abdominal organs and digestive tract by trying Gas-Relieving Pose. Engaging in strenuous physical work is meditation, as is nursing a baby, or washing dishes. These everyday tasks find you disengaging from other feelings and participating completely in the moment, focusing only on the task at hand, so you may already be meditating without even knowing it!


Gail Lord is a freelance writer living in Massachusetts. Please send book review copies to 51 North Street, Grafton, MA 01519 or email

See also:
Book Review | Herbs for Stress and Anxiety: How to Make Herbal Remedies to Strengthen the Nervous System
Book Review | Tuning the Human Biofield: Healing with Vibrational Sound Therapy