Letter from the Publisher, August 2017

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Karen_LFP_0516You know by now that it’s hip to be crafty… but did you know it’s healthy, too?

All about our town, and in towns across the country, painting parlors, knitting circles and pottery-making parties are wildly popular, proving the art of crafting is here to stay.

And the habit is a happy one; recent reports and studies attest to the incredible power of crafting—from knitting and jewelry-making to visual arts such as painting, photography and sculpture—to act as a therapeutic, meditative tool that reduces stress and depression and gives people a sense of accomplishment and control.

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Letter from the Publisher, July 2017

Karen Meshkov, Natural Awakenings BuxMontSummer has arrived, and for so many here in BuxMont, it’s that special time of year when being outside adds enormously to the enjoyment of life. We get to run through the fields, sink our fingers into the earth, lay back on the grass and dip into a cool river or watering hole.

It’s a joy worth preserving; research shows that being in the great outdoors makes us calmer, happier, more grounded and helps to cultivate our appreciation for wonder. It also helps to develop a recognition and respect for the plant and animal life surrounding us, and incentivizes us to learn more about what we can do to conserve and protect it.

Engaging with Mother Nature, though, comes with responsibility, and this year, our attention is on a set of precautions that may be new to some families. In addition to packing our sunglasses, water, sunscreen and first aid kits into our backpacks, we’ll also want to be equipped with the most up-to-date information on Lyme disease and the preventative steps we can take to keep ticks at bay. As Pennsylvania leads the country in new cases of Lyme disease, it’s critical that we are prepared to build new warm-weather habits that keep our families safe this and every summer season.

On pages 16 and 17 of this issue, we learn about organizations like the PA Lyme Resource Network, which has influenced legislative action to support education, prevention and treatment options for Pennsylvanians affected by Lyme disease. Its regional affiliate, Bucks County Lyme, organized by Evelyn Throne and Karen Meyers, holds a monthly support group, which has been an indispensable resource for individuals and families in need of support. We also meet some of the allied healthcare professionals from across the region that are working cooperatively as part of the movement to help boost Lyme literacy.

We are grateful for their excellent efforts to address this important public health challenge, and for sharing their work with the Natural Awakenings community.

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

Karen G. Meshkov, Publisher

Letter from the Publisher, June 2017

PAIN has an element of blank; / It cannot recollect

When it began, or if there were / A day when it was not.

It has no future but itself, / Its infinite realms contain

Its past, enlightened to perceive / New periods of pain.

~Emily Dickenson

Karen Meshkov, Natural Awakenings BuxMontPain is a chronic condition shared by 100 million Americans; it’s the leading reason people go to doctors in the U.S., costing the nation upwards of $635 billion a year—more than cancer, heart disease and diabetes combined, according to the American Academy of Pain Medicine.

WebMD explains how vast and amorphous the condition can be, saying, “Chronic pain can be mild or excruciating, episodic or continuous, merely inconvenient or totally incapacitating…the signals of pain remain active in the nervous system for months or even years.” Sometimes the cause is known, or eventually discovered; sometimes the source remains a mystery.

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Letter from the Publisher, May 2017

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