Letter from the Publisher, May 2017

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Karen_LFP_0516Anyone I’ve ever asked about my mother-in-law, Johanna Pillischer, hasn’t hesitated to tell me what an exquisite person she was. Johanna was an artist, trained at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, and a bodyworker, certified in Rubenfeld Synergy and the Alexander Technique. A mutual friend described her as warm and open-hearted, “like a bodhisattva,” the Buddhist deity that represents an ideally awakened, compassionate being.

I never got the chance to know Johanna before she succumbed to breast cancer in 2001. Still, I think of her often, imagining how we would connect around our shared passion for spirituality, health and self-development, and all the things she would have taught me. I reminisce with her sister about their experiences in the 1960s, learning yoga when it was still a new age trend. Knowing what a beautiful and sensitive man Johanna raised in my husband, Matt, I’m wistful that my son, Asa, will miss the experience to know her.

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Letter from the Publisher, April 2017

Karen_LFP_0516My Bichon Frise is one of the great loves of my life: I adopted her from a pet rescue in New Jersey 10 years ago when she was just over a year old. I’ll never forget the first time I held her, how skinny and timid she was, and how quickly we bonded with each other.

The old adage about man and dog (and woman and dog, as it is) isn’t just lore; research shows the two species have been “besties” for over 34,000 years from the time when dogs and humans began to cohabitate.

Recent research also reveals that humans experience feelings of love for their pets in ways that rival what they feel for their children and mates; what’s even more interesting is it appears the feelings are mutual. Brain scans from a study in Japan show that oxytocin, the chemical released in the brain that creates the experience of love, is stimulated in both humans and their animal companions while they gaze into each other’s eyes.

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Letter from the Publisher, March 2017

Karen_LFP_0516I remember so well being 8 or 9 years old, standing in the nurse’s office, reading the big E on the eye chart, and listening for the high tones coming through the headphones. And who can forget their first time having a cavity drilled?

As adults, though, even those considered health-conscious, we don’t pay nearly as much attention to our visual, oral or auditory health. I know it’s not uncommon for me, with my ever-busier life, to go “too long” between teeth cleanings, eye exams and other important acts of self-care. Frequently, we wait until something goes wrong before we give ourselves the attention we deserve. In this issue, we’ll seek to more fully understand how these aspects of our health are connected to whole-body, whole-being wellness, and can help us be more proactive in our approach.

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Letter from the Publisher, February 2017

Beautiful young people are acts of nature;
Beautiful old people are works of art.
                ~Eleanor Roosevelt

Karen_LFP_0516Many of us are enjoying longer, fuller lives. Our population will soon include 75 million people over the age of 60, and recent reports by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development show the average life expectancy for U.S. men is 76. For U.S. women, it’s 81.Certainly our extended lifespan is cause for celebration. But it also poses important questions: How can we live longer, better with improved physical and emotional vitality? How can we work against a cultural bias that favors youth and stigmatizes older age? How can we treat death with candor and compassion?

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Letter from the Publisher, January 2017

Karen_LFP_0516Looking through the stack of 2016 Natural Awakenings magazines piled up on my desk, it’s hard to believe the year is already over. I marvel at every issue, remembering the rich tapestry of articles and interviews, events and offerings that made each edition unique. This past year has been abundant, filled with dynamic growth for Natural Awakenings of Bucks and Montgomery counties and our readers and contributors in the local, holistic health and wellness community.

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Letter from the Publisher, December 2016

Karen_LFP_0516Sometimes when I am having a hard day, I like to imagine all of the readers and contributors of Natural Awakenings standing around in a giant circle, participating in a huge group hug. This month, I’ve had a couple of those days.

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Letter from the Publisher, November 2016

Ideas are driven by a single impulse: to be made manifest.
~Elizabeth Gilbert, Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear

Karen_LFP_0516In this season of giving thanks, we at Natural Awakenings turn our attention toward a new breed of social and political change-makers that are bringing forth fresh initiatives nationally and internationally. Whether their work is in conservation and environmental justice, health and nutrition, food and farming systems, urban planning or cross-cultural exchange, their paths all converge at the intersection of passion, purpose and productivity. From that sacred space emerge solutions and resolutions that make the world a better place to be.

BuxMont is filled with our own cadre of innovators and originators. For this month’s issue, we focus on a handful of local trendsetters who are redefining the status quo in a multitude of ways. We meet leaders from Elkins Park, Ambler, Doylestown and Wyndmoor who are mobilizing to build fully autonomous, democratically run “co-ops” from the ground up so they may better meet the needs of their communities.

We interview Wynnewood’s Meg Miller, whose lawn signs offer unexpected inspiration to commuters driving through her Main Line neighborhood, and Dr. Andrew Persky of Chalfont, Bucks County, who has brought life-changing pain relief to patients, using an innovative approach to chiropractic medicine.

Karen L. Smith’s Full Living psychotherapy collective employs a shared economy model to connect clients with specialized clinicians across the Philadelphia area, while Randy Garbin’s Walkable Jenkintown initiative promotes civic support for a more pedestrian-positive town—hoping to improve his Eastern Montgomery County neighborhood’s physical, social and economic health.

Activist filmmaker, lawyer and advocate Matt Pillischer, from Cheltenham Township, merges personal and professional pursuits, forging a new path for engaged citizens that want to see a society cleared of racial injustice and mass incarceration. Transformation Yoga Project also focuses on the impact of incarceration on our society, raising funds to provide yoga and mindfulness programs specifically geared to those recovering from trauma.

And this is just a small cross-section of the inspiring work happening in so many ways, by so many of the members of our Natural Awakenings community who are working at the forefront of the local, progressive, holistic health and wellness movements. Whatever you are working toward, if your goal is health and healing of people or planet, Natural Awakenings is with you, this and every month, offering you the camaraderie and courage to be the modern-day change-makers that you are.

Together we are “Making the Awakening” in Bucks and Montgomery counties.

Karen G. Meshkov

Letter from the Publisher, October 2016

Karen_LFP_0516Fall is a time for learning, and this October, our curriculum includes current trends in energy medicine, energy healing and energy psychology (EP). Within the umbrella of “energy work” there exists a wide range of treatment options, from the ancient to the innovative, all with the purpose of balancing the body’s energetic flow, and achieving an optimal state of physical, emotional and spiritual health. Well-known body-centered practices like yoga, massage, reiki, acupuncture, reflexology and osteopathic manipulation; EP techniques including Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) or “tapping”; Eric Pearl’s reconnective therapy; and Donna Eden’s energy medicine curriculum are only a sampling of the modalities that make up this growing body of practices.

We’re also celebrating the sea change in popular culture, as energy healing as a whole becomes more widely recognized by the mainstream. The National Institutes of Health National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health’s 2012 survey reports that approximately 38 percent of U.S. adults and approximately 12 percent of children used some form of complementary health treatment, and that they collectively spent $30 billion in out-of-pocket costs on those services. Nearly 30 percent of that spending was for practices classified as energy medicine. The office’s 2016 strategic plan allocates considerable federal money to continued clinical trials to identify the safety and usefulness of these practices in disease prevention and treatment. Surely, this is a sign of a turning tide.

Examples of this shift abound in healthcare, educational and correctional settings. Yoga, after proving its efficacy as a form of physical fitness and stress relief, is currently being mined for its usefulness in managing more subtle, energetic aspects of mind and emotional regulation in schools, rehabilitation and prison settings.

Major medical centers are now offering a range of complementary and mind-body approaches, such as acupuncture, tai chi and massage, in combination with conventional, allopathic medical treatment, and they are measuring their results in respected, peer-reviewed journals. Nurses are training in reiki and Healing Touch and are offering those services to patients in oncology, surgical and palliative settings. According to the American Hospital Association, in 2007, over 800 American hospitals offered reiki as part of their hospital services.

Whereas EP evidence was mostly anecdotal ten years ago, The Association for Comprehensive Energy Psychology (ACEP) now cites over 80 research studies, including multiple randomized controlled trials published in professional and refereed journals, that confirm the treatment value of energy psychology when applied to many different problems, such as post traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, stress management and performance enhancement. In 2012, ACEP became the first organization to be approved by the APA to give psychologists continuing education for energy psychology.

The research investigating the benefits of these modalities continues to increase as the interest from the public demands it.

It’s exciting to think about how these developments could impact the way we approach physical and mental health in our near and distant futures. Imagine teachers that can help children with ADHD into yoga poses, nurses trained to use hands-on healing after chemotherapy sessions, test proctors teaching EFT to a room of nervous students, and law enforcement officers skilled at guided mindful meditation, bringing presence and peace to the carceral environment.

Come, open your mind with us, and consider the possibilities for wellness in a more “energetic” tomorrow.

Together, we are “Making the Awakening” in Bucks and Montgomery Counties.

Karen G. Meshkov

Letter from the Publisher, September 2016

Karen_LFP_0516As I spoke with Natural Awakenings readers and friends for this Healing Music issue, I repeatedly heard a similar theme. Most people could remember a time when music was just a natural and normal part of life. Some folks drummed in a rock band in high school or performed in piano recitals. Some of us sang in the church choir or played clarinet in a marching band. Others followed the Grateful Dead, making bootleg cassettes, with a hula hoop dancing around their ankles. Maybe you were the one with the biggest record collection, the one that everyone envied. We were at one time, in our own ways, musical beings, enjoying and making music in a joyous and uninhibited way.

I personally remember that time with sweet nostalgia—belting out a solo in my high school auditorium, standing for hours waiting to see Joni Mitchell… I had a CD tower that stacked up to the ceiling of my dorm room.

The stories I heard also reflected a familiar tone of disappointment when I asked how music played into their lives now. Folks lowered their voices and shook their heads and said things like, “too busy,” and “have forgotten how” and “oldest one in the place.” I sheepishly admitted to them that I also now consider music more a luxury than a necessity. I’m more likely to let Pandora tell me what will come through my headphones than to take the time to make the choices myself. On the rare occasion that I sing, it’s usually huddled around a birthday cake.

I think I’m like many adults for whom a demanding set of professional and personal obligations makes it hard to find the space for creative interests and pursuits. When that reality colludes with our inner critic, the message we receive is that we haven’t the time or talent to make music a part of our lives.

Fortunately, mental, physical and spiritual health experts are urging us to think otherwise. In this issue, we learn the seemingly infinite different ways that music and sound help to heal what ails us, while opening up our creativity for greater spaciousness and wholehearted expression. All of this has been proven to help us live better, longer. In short, singing in the shower and going to concerts isn’t just fun—it’s good for our health!

With that info in tow, “Get My Groove Back” starts now! Thanks to Mysterium Music (check them out on page 30), I’m building a library of new tunes for working, relaxing and meditating. I’ve enrolled in a weekend intensive with kirtan superstars David and Mira Newman. I love kirtan, and according to all the research, it loves me back. When the internal voices start their yammering about all the reasons I shouldn’t go, I’ll be prepared to chant through the chatter until all I hear is sound, and all I feel is peace, with the knowledge that what I’m doing is moving me toward greater wellness in body, mind and spirit.

I hope that what’s shared here will help you, as well, to tune into the music inside you, turn up the volume and find your unique groove.

With you in Awakening,

Karen G. Meshkov

September 2016

Letter from the Publisher, August 2016

Karen_LFP_0516The world is a hard place to take right now; just watching the evening news can be an emotionally draining experience. As a new mom, I wonder how I can keep my son safe.

I know that my questions have been faced by countless other parents. How can I help him grow up strong and steady, with a sense of internal peace and confidence? What can I do to make sure he knows he is the ocean and not the waves? And how can I imbue in him the skills to act righteously, lead confidently, connect empathically and stay rock-solid in a place of self-love, whatever challenges life presents to him?

While voices of reason paraphrase Gandhi’s urging to “be the change” and encourage us to mold the world through our behavior, the reality is that in order for our children to be righteous, confident, empathic and full of self-love, we need to teach them to be so. If they are going to operate from a rock-solid foundation in the face of challenges, we have an obligation to give them the tools to build that foundation.

Part of that process, researchers are finding, begins with honoring and cultivating creativity in adults and children alike. Julia Cameron, author of the internationally bestselling book The Artist’s Way, has given us a new resource: The Artist’s Way for Parents: Raising Creative Children. In it, she explains that because we are role models for our children, how we relate to ourselves as creative beings sends a message to them about their own creativity.

Another avenue for foundation-building involves integrating mindfulness into our education system. At The Lotus School of Liberal Arts, in Ottsville, students enjoy moments of silence after class to allow them to be completely present for the experience. They reflect on what was said, what they learned and how they felt, allowing them a more relaxed, deeper learning opportunity. You can read more about it in our article “The Mindful Classroom.” We can build this slowing down and paying attention into more curriculums, helping students decompress and combat the harried, hurry-up mentality that dominates our culture and sometimes keeps us from acting (and reacting) as our best selves.

If mindfulness is not currently part of our children’s school experience, we, as parents, can help them build mindfulness into their daily routines, teaching them to take short mental breaks to “mini-meditate” throughout the day. We can also pay closer attention and more readily recognize when children need more support. One such scenario is outlined in our article “School Daze,” which offers helpful tips for guiding children (regardless of age) as they navigate the emotional terrain of going back to school during a difficult family transition.

As back-to-school time approaches, even we adults get the urge to sharpen our pencils and learn something new. Let’s remain open to opportunities that help us become more centered and grounded. We can then help the young people in our lives learn to do the same. May your learning process bring you not only knowledge, but also wisdom and growth. That’s what will help us all make this world a better place for the next generation.

With you in Awakening,

Karen G. Meshkov

August 2016

Letter from the Publisher, July 2016

Karen_LFP_0516Now is a really good time to eat. After decades of Americans wanting their meals fast, highly processed and pulled off the shelf at a gigantic grocery store, food culture is experiencing a renaissance. The emphasis is on slowing down, stripping out what’s unnatural and unnecessary, and shrinking the space between where food is created to where it is served. From growing pesticide-free tomatoes and herbs in backyard gardens and hand-selecting organic local produce, cheese and meats from neighborhood farmers’ markets and CSAs, to analyzing ingredient labels in the local co-op, folks are investing more time, money and thought into the food their families are eating and the impact of that food on their communities.

While all of these changes reflect an increasing concern for the lives of humans, animals and the planet, adjusting to this shift in consciousness can sometimes feel like information overload. That’s why we’re taking the summer harvest time here in southeastern Pennsylvania as reason to celebrate as well as educate.

What makes something “organic”, and does it always cost more? How close does something have to be to be “local”, and why does that matter? What exactly is a GMO? We delve into “Locavore Lingo” on page 18 and unpack the GMO issue and more with activist and educator Jeffrey Smith on page 30.

“Meaty Truths”, on page 14, explores the realities of large-scale meat processing and alternative methods to ensure meat is safe, humane and chemical free. We also get tips on how to ensure that if we choose to eat meet, we get beef, poultry and pork that we can feel confident about. Luckily for us locals, we needn’t go any further than the world-renowned Rodale Institute in Berks County. Farmers there are leading the movement toward healthier, more conscious meat eating through their heritage-breed hogs.

In appreciation and gratitude for the Bucks County organizations that make our trip from farm to table short and easy, we present the Locavore’s Guide on pages 26 and 27, sponsored by the Bucks County Foodshed Alliance, and in cooperation with Buy Fresh Buy Local of Bucks County. Every time you buy local from the farms, markets and CSAs listed here, you feed not only yourself but local farmers, their families and everyone involved with the local economy. Remember the Doylestown Food Market’s motto, “Shop Your Co-op First,” and don’t forget to pencil in their second annual Farm to Table Celebrity Chef Celebration on August 13.

We hope you’ll keep this issue at hand as you explore the countryside during those long, meandering summer days and nights. Chances are, wherever you are, you aren’t far from locally sourced, farm-fresh food that’s as sweet and succulent as it is safe and sustainable.

With you in Awakening,

Karen G. Meshkov

Letter from the Publisher, June 2016

Karen_LFP_0516This month’s issue, Balanced Man and Cultivating Compassion, aims to bring us closer to the men in our lives: their ailments and issues, hopes and fears, celebrations and secrets. We hope to expand the cultural conversation to include more of the personal experiences of our husbands, brothers, fathers and sons.

The recent, critically acclaimed book Remaking Manhood, The Modern Masculinity Movement: Stories from the Front Lines of Change, written by Mark Greene, talks about  how men have been raised to disconnect with their vulnerability, leaving them feeling socially isolated and shut off from their emotions. The personal essays in the book describe how this damages the psyches of boys and men and is detrimental to families and communities. Greene’s nonprofit organization, the Good Men Project, gives voice to the modern masculinity movement, which suggests that the archetype of manhood be reconstructed to eradicate notions like “boys don’t cry” and replace them with models of expression and emotional empowerment for men and women alike.

Watching my husband and my friends’ husbands with their kids is a testament to the progress being made. Unlike many fathers and grandfathers in generations past, for whom changing dirty diapers was beyond the pale, in many modern families the guys are just as likely to be cuddling, coddling and coaching their children—in the process smudging out outmoded stereotypes about what’s “natural” to one particular gender.

As usual, Natural Awakenings is on the cutting edge of the conversation, nationally and here in the Philadelphia suburbs. Our feature pieces delve into “new” fatherhood, ways to improve emotional intelligence, and communication strategies for long-lasting relationships by renowned relationship gurus Gay and Kathlyn Hendricks. Our local subject matter experts address massage for decreasing stress and pain, as well as compassionate divorce. We’ll hear also from the “leading men” creating innovations in green pest control and green burial, where compassion for people and planet are the motivating ideals.

With you in Awakening,

Karen G. Meshkov