What is Ascension?

by Elizabeth Joyce

16455912 - butterfly abstractAscension is the path of those who are choosing to consciously evolve. It’s a personal choice to boldly step into the unknown in order to expand into an experience that is entirely new. Ascension is actively choosing to expand into higher consciousness.

Ascension is merging with one’s higher self, opening one’s heart and expanding to reunite with “source”, the divine light, and all levels and layers of one’s authentic self. It is returning to the experience of divine light and experiencing the highest levels of unconditional love and divine alignment with pure source light in every area of life. Ascension is not something that happens to us on a certain date, or that we unknowingly or unwillingly stumble into.

Awareness will help us to adapt to the ever-changing circumstances of life around us. In addition to meditation, we should learn and seek out new perspectives, validate what we learn to gain wisdom and knowledge, implement what will serve us, love in every moment, move forward and grow. This is the ascension path—the path of increased awareness, higher consciousness and illumination; the master path of love.

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Powering Down: Finding Presence in Our Family Life

42109255 - mixed race family playing solitaire

by Delia Nessim

It’s fascinating to observe how family life has evolved over time. Families in the 1950s and ‘60s were quite conservative with rules and limits. A teenage boy with long hair was considered radical. The ‘70s was the era of rebellion—teens wore long hair, attended protests and used mind-altering drugs. Each of these eras posed unique challenges to the parent-child dynamic.

The excessive use of electronic devices is the parental complaint of our times. It affects kids of all ages; even toddlers seem to intrinsically know how to use many devices. Video screens do a great job of keeping kids quiet and happy for many hours. What parent doesn’t want to make their kids happy?

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EFT: Tapping the Way to Holiday Ease

by Delia Nessim

The holidays can be a lot of fun, but this time of year can also be a stressful time for many people. There are a lot of decisions to make about purchases, time allocation and finances. In addition, the holidays typically involve spending time with extended family, which in itself can be very emotional for people, especially when it involves returning to the family home. The sights, sounds and smells can easily invoke memories that may or may not feel good.

How does one deal with the obligations of the holidays while staying calm and centered? One way is to use a mind-body technique called EFT, or Emotional Freedom Techniques. This modality has existed for about 30 years but has really gained momentum in American mental health circles over the last five years. EFT is a form of acupressure, and it uses the traditional acupuncture energy meridians, but without the invasiveness of needles. Instead, tapping uses just a hand or a fingertip to touch on these energy points while thinking about a specific problem and validating all the feelings that arise. An example might be, “I’m so mad, I could scream.” This allows the emotions to flow and dissipate faster.

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Acupuncture, Actually: A Practical Look at Qi and ‘Energy’


Paolo Propato and Grace Rollins, licensed acupuncturists at Bridge Acupuncture, discuss the energetics of acupuncture and what it’s like to work and train in their field of Chinese medicine.

Paolo: What is qi?
Grace: Many people think of qi as “energy”, but I think that’s too materialistic of a translation. Qi is basically a very useful term that sums up complex processes that together create recognizable phenomena in the body. If you try to think of qi as some kind of literal substance or force you’re just going to frustrate people interested in scientific backing; you won’t find a measurable “energy” that corresponds to what people who practice Asian medicine are talking about.

“Qi” for acupuncturists is “weather” as it relates to the body. Weather is electromagnetic and gravitational relationships between elements and molecules; it’s pressure dynamics, thermodynamics, radiation; it’s many processes, all overlapping and influencing each other. We can study it, characterize it and make predictions about it. The same way that we recognize many patterns in weather, we learn how to recognize patterns in qi, so we can influence bodily functions and promote health.

P: What do acupuncture methods actually do?
G: The traditional answer is that they stimulate special points that harmonize qi in the body, thereby promoting proper function and health. Scientifically, stimulating acupuncture points with needles and moxa has been shown to generate complex responses.

Needling causes distortions in chains of connective tissue throughout the body, which link different muscle groups, joints and organs. It also fires nerve endings that light up vastly different areas of the brain and spinal cord. Acupuncture causes an electrical distortion in the body’s electromagnetic field—you’re putting a metal needle into an ionic solution (the body), which immediately creates an electrical polarity. The micro-injury caused by needling and moxa heat is also a very powerful method of stimulating the immune system and cytokines (chemical messengers). Plus, with acupuncture needles you can physically loosen tight muscle and connective tissue to release restrictions and improve blood flow.

I think one of the challenges in studying acupuncture scientifically is that its methods do so much, all at once. One exact mechanism eludes us. That’s why, even though I have a very scientifically oriented mind, I still prefer the traditional Chinese and Japanese pre-scientific theoretical concepts. We still haven’t discovered a better way to describe the complex processes happening here.

P: What makes acupuncture unique compared to other modalities that work with the subtle energy of the body?
G: Acupuncture is old, people! Over 2,500 years old! Moxibustion, the practice of heating acupoints with the ember of dried mugwort, is even older. So even though acupuncture is dealing with complexities that resist the scientific method, it has withstood a very important test with its continued use over such a long period of time.

A good scientist remains open-minded to the things that science doesn’t yet have the tools to measure and explain. That applies to a lot of what happens in healing. But that doesn’t mean you have to be open-minded to everything. Innovation is good. It helps our medicine get better and better, but with a methodology that is mainly observational, you have to be careful not to be led astray.

For this reason, I approach change cautiously, and I gravitate toward Japanese acupuncture, which monitors feedback during the session. We’re always checking diagnostic qualities in the pulse, the abdomen or a symptomatic area for signs that our treatments are having the desired effect. Vetting my methods this way gives me confidence.

P: What are you feeling for before, during and after needling?
G: Patients like to ask me if I can “feel the energy,” and if you think of it like qi, the summation of complex processes, then the answer is absolutely yes. We rely on touch, smell, sight and sound to collect information about the patient—especially touch in Japanese acupuncture. If I have to wear a Band-Aid on just one finger, I feel like I have a hand tied behind my back—it affects what I can feel.

14040778 - acupuncture needles

Before needling, I’m feeling diagnostically for areas of restriction, imbalance and dysfunction in the patient. This might be structural, as in certain muscle groups or vertebral bodies that are too tight, twisted or compressed. Often internal imbalances will also be represented by certain qualities in the pulse, on the tongue or in reflective zones of the abdomen and back. For example, cardiac problems often show up with specific tender points on the upper torso and back.

Next I’m feeling for an appropriate point location; there are traditional anatomical locations as well as certain qualities that identify a “live” point. Depending on the point, it might be a recessed area, a tight spot, a tender spot, thicker skin or connective tissue—qualities that indicate a more effective point. When I insert the needle, there is a feeling I seek that acupuncturists call the “arrival of qi”. To me it’s like a density on the end of the needle, like it’s connected well. Learning to recognize it is part of our craft.

After needling I will re-check the diagnostic signs to see if the acupuncture was successful at balancing the qi. If I did a good job there should be signs of improvement; if not, I might need another point, or a different one, or to add moxa, for example.

I’m also feeling the qi of the person as a whole. This is the intuitive part, synthesizing the input from all of my senses.

P: How do you cultivate the necessary skills?
G: I started studying acupuncture at the same time I started studying Aikido and Zen meditation. Like acupuncture, Aikido trains the various senses of the body to harmonize with another person’s qi. These practices help me to be more centered and attuned to my patients, and to myself.

An invaluable part of my training is a regular apprenticeship with the acupuncture master Kiiko Matsumoto. I spend at least two or three weeks a year shadowing her here and in Japan, taking in practical knowledge as well as the qi of her practice—the complex combination of qualities that allow her to be a dynamic, effective practitioner.

Taking my own health seriously is also a critical way that I stay attuned to the balance of qi in others. I believe in it, I live it! I work on my posture throughout the day and study how to move in a way that’s healthy and efficient. I try to eat in a way that’s balanced ecologically, that doesn’t do me harm and that fills me with vitality. I get outdoors and experience the natural world to help keep those areas of my consciousness and humanity alive. I meditate, do yoga and exercise a lot, and I try to play and have fun. Last but not least, I get regular acupuncture!

Bridge Acupuncture, located at 30 Garden Alley, in Doylestown, is a Legacy Advertising partner of Natural Awakenings of Bucks and Montgomery Counties. To schedule an appointment with Paolo Propato or Grace Rollins, call 215-348-8058 or visit BridgeAcupuncture.com. October 2016.

Fall Recipe Roundup

Three of Natural Awakenings’ resident nutritionists, Gina Forgione, Audrey Fleck and Ellen Sue Spicer-Jacobson, offer up these healthy, homey recipes to bring to your fall table.

Fall Bison Vegetable Stew

1 lb bison cubes
5-6 small Yukon Gold potatoes
6 carrots, chopped in coins
1 medium onion, diced
1, 28 oz can stewed tomatoes
¾ cup dried sprouted lentils
1 cup broth
1 Tbsp dried oregano
1 tsp dried basil
1 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp salt
Pepper, to taste

Combine ingredients in pressure cooker. Cook for 20 minutes.

If using slow cooker, brown meat first in 1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil with onions. Add the rest of the ingredients and cook on medium heat for 5-6 hours.

Tips: To cut back on carbs, use less potatoes and skip the lentils. Bison is available at Backyard Bison, in Coopersburg.

Courtesy of Audrey Fleck, Functional Origins. FunctionalOrigins.com.

Curry-Flavored Halloween Soup

4 cups water or vegetable stock
2-3 carrots
1 parsnip (substitute another carrot if not available)
1 sweet potato
1-2 tsp curry powder, to taste

Scrub and peel (if organic, you may skip this step for the carrots) carrots, sweet potato and parsnip.

Cut veggies into small chunks, especially the sweet potato, to cut down on cooking time. (Hint: Scrub and peel the sweet potato first and put it into the pot of water on a medium flame while assembling other items.)

Cook veggies until soft (20 minutes).

Cool slightly and add curry powder. Then use an immersion blender to puree the soup to a desired consistency.

Reheat to desired temperature and serve sprinkled with black sesame seeds or cooked wild rice for a Halloween black/orange effect.

Courtesy of Ellen Sue Spicer-Jacobson. Menupause.info.

Easy Paleo Pumpkin Butter

1 ½ cups canned organic pumpkin puree
¼ cup virgin coconut oil, melted
½ cup pure maple syrup
2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
3 tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp ground ginger
¼ tsp ground cloves
¼ tsp ground nutmeg
1 ½ tsp sea salt

Place all of the ingredients in a food processor. Pulse a few times to combine. Spread over toasted sprouted whole grain bread, spread over our healthy pancakes or enjoy as a veggie dip.

Courtesy of Gina Forgione, In Balance Health Coaches. InBalanceHealthCoaches.com.

October 2016

Getting Your Head on Straight: More than a Metaphor

by Andrew Persky

ManFaceAsianProfile_31429764_lGet your head on straight!” To most of us, this sounds like something parents tell their children in moments of desperation, but new research and modern imaging technologies are shedding light on the importance of proper alignment of the head and neck. Here are just a few reasons why it’s more than just a manner of speaking.

It’s about balance.
Although it might not feel like it, the average human head weighs nine to 17 pounds—roughly the weight of a bowling ball. Balancing our heads on top of our spines is comparable to balancing a bowling ball on top of a stick, yet our brains gracefully perform this task without any conscious effort. Two primary mechanisms are involved in this balance. First, the brain has a desire to maintain the eyes level with the horizon, a phenomenon known as the “righting reflex”. Second, physics requires that the body stay underneath the center of gravity of the head so that we don’t fall over. If the head is slightly off balance, the brain can distort the spine in order to bring the rest of the body underneath it. Maintaining this distorted posture can be an underlying cause of chronic pain in the neck, shoulders, lower back or hips.

It’s about flow.
A recent study published in the journal Neurology Research International highlights the importance of proper flow of blood and cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) within the head and spinal cord, and how a misalignment between the base of the skull and the first bone in the neck (the upper cervical region) can impact that flow. Using fMRI imaging, doctors observed abnormal flow of CSF when upper cervical misalignments were present, and improvements in CSF flow following upper cervical treatment. The study also makes a connection between abnormal CSF flow and numerous neurological conditions.

It’s about optimal health.
Hippocrates was right when he said, “Look well to the spine for the cause of disease.” The spinal cord enables the brain to monitor and control virtually every bodily function. Burdened by the weight of the head, the spine is especially vulnerable at the top of the neck, close to the brain stem.

We are all well aware of how a major spinal cord injury can dramatically impact a person’s life, but only recently are we learning that more subtle misalignments of the head are also impacting health in myriad ways. Patient results and the experiences of public figures like former quarterback Jim McMahon and talk show host Montel Williams are showing that patients with chronic musculoskeletal pain or neurological conditions often experience profound improvements from upper cervical treatment.

ED_LifeAligned-AndrewPersky_0616Dr. Andrew Persky, DC, is founder of LifeAligned Upper Cervical Treatment Center, in Warrington. For more information, call 215-491-4200 or visit LifeAlignedHealth.com.

June 2016

Seven Steps through the Storm: Keila Gilbert of Alpha Center for Divorce Mediation Finds Compassion within Divorce

by Sarah Grey

WW_AlphaCenter-KeilaGilbertOf all of life’s great transitions —parenthood, marriage, retirement—one of the most difficult is divorce. Divorce requires a great deal of compassion that too often is missing. That’s why Natural Awakenings sat down with Keila Gilbert of Alpha Center, an attorney mediator who specializes in guiding couples through the divorce process with compassion.

How did you become a divorce mediator? I went through my own divorce about 20 years ago, and it was extremely painful. Instead of focusing on that pain and anger, though, I found a different way to channel my energy. I became a divorce attorney mediator in the hope of giving other couples a better experience than I had.

Twenty years later, you’re a pioneer in the field of divorce mediation. Can you tell us about how Alpha Center works? The biggest decision couples face is whether to divorce, but the second- biggest decision is how to divorce. When we hear the word “divorce” we think of two attorneys battling to the death in court. So many people don’t even realize that there are other options. We offer couples a seven-step program to guide them through the divorce transition in constructive ways that help them move forward emotionally, financially and legally.

Is mediation for everyone? Some divorces do need to go through the court system, such as when physical abuse is involved. In general, though, mediation is a more cooperative and compassionate choice for many couples. The Alpha Center also works to make it more affordable by charging a flat fee, so that couples are not racking up huge attorneys’ fees. We want this better alternative to be accessible to everyone.

What does it mean to offer a compassionate divorce process? Most divorcing couples go into the process with lots of emotions and very little knowledge. So our program is highly structured in a way that focuses on the future, not the past. We’re happy to refer them to therapists, but we try to step away from the emotions here so that both parties can put their energy into moving forward into O
the next stage of their lives.

Divorce can be financially devastating, so we have financial and tax experts who work with our mediators to help couples increase their cash flow and avoid financial conflict. Also, when children are involved, a parenting mediator, who is a qualified therapist, works with the couple to negotiate a co-parenting agreement that minimizes the impact on children.

We also do a lot of referrals to related services. On our website, we have a large directory of therapists, financial advisors, support groups and more, which we’ve vetted for quality.

What do you think is behind the epidemic of divorce? How did the divorce rate get to be so high? There are social, cultural and personal reasons for this trend. Women now have a greater level of freedom, education and opportunity than they had in the past. Prior to gaining these strengths, they were much more inclined to remain in an economically and socially dependent marriage due to lack of other options. Social mores have also changed, from stigmatizing divorced individuals to accepting them.

When looking at the individual causes, you see people entering marriage too blindly and then failing to understand that good marriages take hard work. I’d love it if my services were needed less often. That’s why we also offer resources on our site about how to strengthen or save a marriage. We want to interrupt what I call the “marriage-go-round cycle”, which is when people divorce one partner only to date, marry, separate and divorce again. While 85 percent of our clients do complete the divorce mediation program, of the 15 percent who don’t, quite a few reconcile. Sometimes you see the light bulb go on when people realize they really can work together to save the marriage.

Fifty percent of first marriages, 60 percent of second marriages and 70 percent of third marriages end in divorce. The lesson there is that people often do not learn from their mistakes, but rather blame their partner for the problems, and therefore continue to repeat their past behaviors. Also, subsequent marriages carry the added challenges of blended families.

Do you offer resources for recently divorced people? Yes. On our website we offer resources and ideas for people moving on after divorce. We help them understand what they need to make good decisions about life’s most important relationship. We’re also committed to helping newly single people find quality financial advice.

To that end, can you tell me more about the educational programs you offer? Education is such a powerful factor in making important life decisions. It’s an important part of what we do. We offer workshops for couples as well as for professionals. Recently we did a community workshop focused on “Mended, Blended and Extended Families”. We also offered one for professional couples counselors called “Marital Stress Management”.

It must be very energetically draining to be with people who are in conflict around the ending of a marriage. What do you do to fortify yourself spiritually and emotionally? There is no doubt that you can get “compassion fatigue” when you place yourself in the center of the strife of over 5,000 divorcing individuals over the course of 20 years, as I have. However, it is extremely rewarding to know how much you have changed the trajectory of their lives and their children’s lives, as compared to those who follow the unhealthy path of years of emotionally and financially draining litigation.

I fortify myself by focusing on a healthy lifestyle and a strong meditation practice, and I rely on the support of my coworkers. I am especially blessed with my loving husband, children, extended family and friends. Also, I often retreat through my love of travel, reading, music and the many gifts of nature.

This is your life’s work. What has kept you in it, and what do you see for divorce in the future? It is my life’s work—but also my life’s passion. My original mission was to create an effective divorce mediation program and bring it to as many people as possible. That’s still true, but my work is now focused on training other attorneys to provide our program to divorcing couples throughout the nation. There are now 15 Alpha locations nationwide.

As for the future of divorce, I do believe it will stabilize as a result of three factors. First, people are now delaying marriage to later years, so they are a bit wiser; second, they are entering marriage with more mutual respect and equal footing; third, there are many more resources available to support and encourage healthy marriages. There is one other factor that may continue to decrease divorce, and that is a trend to live together rather than marry, which is a much more prevalent norm in Europe.

How does your commitment to compassion play out in your everyday work at Alpha? I have deliberately surrounded myself with good people who share my passion and commitment to serving our clients during this very vulnerable time of their lives. Though I remain a perfectly imperfect person, I feel that our work has left positive imprints on the lives of the many adults and children that we have been blessed to serve.

Alpha Center for Divorce Mediation is headquartered in Doylestown and offers its divorce mediation program in multiple locations and online. For more information, call 800-310-9085, email AlphaCares@Alpha-Divorce.com or visit Alpha-Divorce.com and AlphaResourceCenter.com.

Sarah Grey is a writer and editor whose work has been published in Saveur, Best Food Writing 2015and many more. To read her writing, visit SarahGreyWrites.com; to learn about her editorial services, visit GreyEditing.com.

June 2016

Epigenetics: Experience Creating Inheritance

by Art Gutkin


What is epigenetics?

Epigenetics centers on the inheritable changes in gene expression, not encompassing changes to the underlying DNA sequence (phenotype), arising from environmental influences—i.e., a change in observable characteristics of an organism through environmental influences, without changing the geneticmakeup of the cell (genotype). Environment affects how cells react to the genes. Phenotype defines the specific characteristic of a cell, such as blood type, based both on genetic and its environmental influences. Genotype is that specific structure of the cell, as contained in the DNA, that determines specific characteristics of that cell/organism/individual, excluding all environmental influences.

Environmental influences that create change define the differences between the phenotype and the genotype. This is best exemplified by observable differences in sets of identical twins, triplets and the like.

Dismissing environmental issues, it is reasonable to assume that all identical twins would evolve throughout their lives in the exact same manner and exhibit the same behavioral characteristics and illnesses throughout their lives. Carrying this thought forward, all twins or triplets should die on the same day.

What causes differences between twins and triplets?

Environment does. But… what environmental factors create changes to the cells responsible for the differences in twins as they grow? And, in turn, what materializes during a lifetime causing each individual to change into a unique individual?

Cells contain “on” and “off” switches/triggers.

Studies demonstrate that early childhood trauma or PTSD may alter genes, which may be transmitted from one generation to the next.

These findings reveal that each and every experience in life may change that individual and succeeding generations. Imagine watching a movie creating fear. The effect of that fear over a prolonged period can become an inheritable trait. One event may not create a specific change affecting the child, but the continued revisiting of that experience just may do so. If cells are a product of the fixed DNA, prolonged exposure to a particular event would be incapable of creating change.

Like sediment repeatedly deposited on a finely tuned machine, our experiences, and those of our forebears, are never erased, even if they have been forgotten on the surface or in the deep recesses of the mind. They are always a part of us. The DNA may remain the same, but the psychological and behavioral tendencies can be inherited. You might have inherited not just your grandfather’s weak back, but also his predisposition toward depression created by a lack of childhood love. Analogous is Carl Jung’s belief in the collective unconscious.

Consider a child feeling unloved and isolated, whether actually unloved or just perceiving it as such. As a result, the child begins to move inward and withdraws, but after years of therapy or moving past those childhood experiences, the individual comes out of the shell. The “on” switch has been effectively switched “off”. Now consider that individual, at a later time in life, observes or experiences an event revisiting childhood memories. The switch then turns “on”, causing the individual to re-experience the childhood withdrawal pattern.

The subsequent event, though many years later and long “forgotten”, switched “on” that trigger.

As switches come into play, our emotions become involved. Our emotions touch each of the five senses. Creating change in one or more of the senses alters the emotion/mood.

Consider when anger overpowers us. The anger creates changes in the senses of hearing, touch, smell, taste and/or sight. Each and every emotion, each and every conversation, each and every television show creates a unique combination of these senses within an individual. Alter one of these senses and the mood modifies. After doing this often enough, the response to the event creating the anger may extinguish.

A clear understanding of the client’s issue, its cause and remedy need be considered in the total context before a remedy can be obtained.

ED_Medintuitive-ArthurGutkin_0616Art Gutkin is a certified NGH hypnotherapist, medical intuitive and professional member of the National Institute of Counselors and Therapists. For more information, call 215-740-0766, email ArtGutkin@gmail.com or visit MedIntuitive.com.

June 2016

No Restrictions: Massage to Restore, Enhance and Prevent

by Mandy Francis

FB_BackInBalance-NitaKeesler-2_0616The popularity of massage continues to rise as studies confirm the value of massage for reducing stress, pain and muscle tension. The Mayo Clinic even recently opened a spa to offer massage and acupuncture. Nita Keesler, massage therapist, talks about the importance of massage for men.

In your practice, what kinds of issues do you see that are specific to men? Typically, male clients have tight shoulders, low back/hips and hamstrings. Sciatic pain, rotator cuff issues and carpal tunnel syndrome also tend to be common. Restricted movement can affect posture, and sitting can exacerbate pain, which is especially problematic if someone works at a computer or drives for a living.

Weight training and running are popular forms of exercise for many guys. How does that impact their flexibility, and how can massage help support them in those practices? Massage therapy is very beneficial to men that lift weights, run or participate in other cardiovascular exercise because it prevents and alleviates restrictions in the muscles. “Restrictions” can originate from various injuries, improper posture or repetitive motions, as in the case of weightlifting. Massage also helps to prevent what’s called delayed onset muscle soreness, so the body can heal faster with massage than with rest alone.

What benefits can men expect from greater flexibility? Men can gain improved range of motion and better posture, which affect health on many levels, including digestion, mood and, of course, appearance. Massage helps make the muscles more supple by helping to oxygenate with fresh blood. Think of tight muscles as a kink in a hose—when tight, the muscles can entrap blood vessels and nerves, creating pain. Massage helps to alleviate that. Massage combined with assisted stretching, whether it is sports stretching or Thai massage—which is what I incorporate into my practice—is even more beneficial. When someone else is stretching our bodies, we are able to stretch a bit further because our muscles are relaxed. With Thai massage we are also being massaged while being stretched, so the results are even more profound.

FB_BackInBalance-NitaKeesler_0616How many sessions do men need to attend before experiencing a noticeable difference? Everyone is unique. Results will depend on how long they have had their physical issues, whether they have any scar tissue, the amount of stress they typically have and their compliance to self-care, particularly stretching and body awareness. But many have felt relief in one to two sessions. With weekly or biweekly sessions, many have had significant results within six to 10 sessions and continue with monthly or bimonthly maintenance.

What else do you want people to know? Our bodies are meant to move in several planes of movement. Many exercises, including walking, running, cycling and the elliptical, have us in only one repetitive plane of movement. These are all great ways to work out, but it is imperative to supplement with other modalities such as weight training, which by design, if done correctly, requires us to use our muscles in a balanced way. Stretching is the most important thing we can do to help prevent injuries. Massage and assisted stretching are exceptional in that they help us get to that place of flexibility so that we are able to more easily do it on our own.

Also important is an understanding of “how and why” our bodies have reached their current states. I offer posture and flexibility workshops for individuals and for workplaces to help bring this understanding in a simple way, along with techniques that participants can use throughout their busy day.

Nita Keesler is a licensed and board-certified massage and bodywork therapist with over 20 years of experience. For more information, call 267-980-1727, email iNitaUnwind@gmail.com or visit Back-In-Balance.MassageTherapy.com. Check for discount package pricing, current specials and new client specials.

June 2016

38 Million Reasons to Give Up Bottled Water

by Lisa White

BottlePlasticTrashRecycle_12226117_lThe statistics are disappointing: 38 billion plastic water bottles aren’t recycled each year. But there’s no need to lose out on the health benefits of on-the-go agua. Switch to reusable bottles—and for all of the right reasons.

Create a fashion statement.
There are so many to chose from. At a local store or online from sites such as LifeFactory.com, WaterBobble.com, Camelbak.com, Sigg.com and Nalgene.com, reusable bottles can be stainless steel, aluminum, glass, polycarbonate or other plastics. Be certain the plastics or liners do not contain BPA, an endocrine-disrupting chemical linked to numerous health concerns.

Save money for important stuff.
Depending on materials and insulating properties, a high-quality reusable bottle generally retails from $5 to $30. Greeniacs.com reports that bottled water can cost up to 10,000 times more per gallon than tap water. The average American currently spends more than $5 per week ($260/year) supporting this $100 billion a year industry. Thirty dollars versus $260 is an impressive return on investment.

Stay healthy.
Bottled water is not necessarily healthier or cleaner than tap water. Bottled water, often stored for long periods of time, may eventually contain more microorganisms than tap water. A lot of bottled water is “purified”, actually originating as drinking water from a municipal water system. Skip the pricey word games and drink the tap water that is rigorously tested by local, state and federal environmental agencies. If taste and purity are issues, invest in a water filter. Both PUR and Brita offer filtering products that effectively eliminate lead, chlorine, mercury and copper from tap water.

Be a hero to our land and seas.
Discarded bottles litter highways, clog waterways or end up in incinerators and landfills. Plastic in landfills can take up to 700 years to decompose. Microplastics fill patches of our ocean, as evidenced by the Great Pacific Garbage Patch we see in the news.

Save the dinosaurs.
OK, not the actual dinosaurs. Fossil fuels were created from organisms that lived long before the dinosaurs. But none of them are coming back any time soon. The Earth Policy Institute estimates that energy used to pump,process, transport and refrigerate bottled water consumes over 50 million barrels of oil annually, more fuel than is required for 100,000 cars in a year. Recycling those bottles uses additional energy and other resources.

Stand up for communities.
Bottled water is often diverted from communities that rely on that water for their livelihood or future. The bottling companies make profits, and the citizens of these areas are negatively impacted, sometimes even having to buy bottled water themselves when the non-diverted water from their taps is not safe.

Feel good.
Making the switch makes us part of the solution.

Lisa White is a board member and one of more than 550 households owning the Doylestown Food Market, in Doylestown. Check out their Lifefactory silicone-wrapped glass bottles, and don’t miss TAPPED on June 9, part of the Market’s Farm Fresh Film Series. For more information, call 215-348-4548 or visit Doylestown.coop.

June 2016

Finding Our Way Home: Mark Harris and Green Meadow Lead the Way for Green Burial

by Karen G. Meshkov

FlowersOrangeIsolated_9068900_lThe green burial movement, which encompasses a host of ways people are finding to honor the dead and care for their remains in environmentally, socially and economically sustainable ways, is on the rise. According to the Green Burial Council website, the number of approved providers in North America has grown from one in 2006 to more than 300 today, operating in 41 U.S. states and six Canadian provinces. This phenomenon represents another major area of American culture that has shifted toward the “green”.

Two of the movement’s driving forces are located here in Eastern Pennsylvania.

ED_GreenMeadow-GraveMatters_0616Mark Harris’Grave Matters….In his book Grave Matters, A Journey through the Modern Funeral Industry to a Natural Place of Burial, Moravian College instructor and former environmental columnist Mark Harris follows the stories of several families that sought and found alternative “green burials” for a loved one. Through their experiences, Harris opens up to exploration the various alternatives—cremation, burial by sea and natural cemeteries—to what is offered by traditional funeral parlors in the U.S. He explains the environmentally problematic implications of the standard burial and embalming process, and traces the history of burial in America from the rural cemetery movement of the 1800s to the modern, billion-dollar business it is now.

Harris, who lives and works in Bethlehem, PA, has a family history in the business of death and dying: His grandfather owned a memorial park, and he is continuing the legacy in his own way, touring, speaking and teaching on the natural burial movement across the country and locally at universities, churches and community groups.

Harris is a proponent of natural cemeteries as a strategy to protect and preserve land, but he also lauds how using a naturally decomposing casket in burial contributes to a spiritual and literal experience of moving from “dust to dust.” He shares, “When I visited my first natural cemetery, I could see that this was a place of life, not of death. In this place, I thought, the body can join the natural cycle of life at death, and that struck me as a really logical thing to do.”

ED_GreenMeadow-MarkHarris_0616A Green Meadow in Fountain Hill Cemetery….Harris brought his passion for the natural burial model home to Lehigh Valley and, working with the founders of Fountain Hill cemetery, created the first natural cemetery in the area, calling it Green Meadow. GreenMeadow’s mission is to return people’s remains to the earth as simply and directly as possible. The goal is to create a beautiful and respectful place to allow the body to degrade naturally and rejoin Earth’s elements, perpetuating the natural cycle of life and death, of dissolution and rebirth. The burial process uses what remains of life to regenerate new life.

Unlike traditional cemeteries, Green Meadow prohibits practices that prevent natural reunion with the Earth, including burial vaults, metal caskets and chemical embalming. In their place they allow biodegradable caskets and cloth shrouds. Upright headstones are not permitted; however, ground-level fieldstone and other natural native rock markers are allowed.

Maintenance of the grounds at Green Meadow also differs from traditional cemeteries. The meadow is planted with native wildflowers, eliminating the need for lawn care. Unlike conventional cemeteries, plots are not pre-assigned—new plots are selected in succession to recent burials. (Exceptions are made for families with existing sites.) This allows for less environmental disturbance of the meadow and maintains a peaceful, contiguous native wildflower landscape.

Each season, Green Meadow invites volunteers from the community to help with turning the soil, cleaning and upkeep of the grounds. “It’s a wonderful way for people whose loved ones are here to connect with their memory and the spirit of this place,” says Ed Vogrins, Green Meadows Executive Director.

Mark Harris is a former environmental columnist with the Los Angeles Times Syndicate. His articles and essays have appeared in the Chicago Tribune, Reader’s Digest, E: The Environmental Magazine and Vegetarian Times. He has been interviewed by Fresh Air host Terry Gross and appeared on CNN, MSNBC, ABC News and the CBC. He can be reached at 610-954-8375 or Mark@GraveMatters.us. For more information or to buy the book Grave Matters, visit GraveMatters.us.

Fountain Hill Cemetery is located at 1121 Graham Street, Fountain Hill. For more information, contact Ed Vogrins at 610-868-4840 or visit GreenMeadowPA.org.

June 2016

Stress Signals: Listen to Lessen

by Christine Tentilucci


The term “mind-body connection” can evoke a multitude of subjective definitions. One interpretation is the relationship between mental stress and physical health. Research illustrates that stress that affects the mind directly relates to the health of the body. Therefore, mind-body awareness — remaining aware of how our mental and emotional state correlates to experiences within the body — can be a valuable tool in managing the stress response.

When reacting to stressors, the body releases cortisol, known as the “stress hormone”. If the mind is in a continual state of stress, the cortisol level remains constantly elevated, wreaking havoc on a number of the body’s functions. Chronic stress has been linked to digestive disorders, suppressed immune function, internal inflammation and even cancer.

Women’s health is significantly tied to the body’s delicate balance of hormones, which includes cortisol. This is why decreasing the stress response, and conversely increasing the relaxation response, is a key component of women’s health. These are just a few ways increased stress can affect women’s health:

Periodic Periods. Considering cortisol is part of the hormonal system, it’s no wonder that stress may cause irregular periods.

Bouts of Blemishes. Ever wonder why pimples often pop up during times of stress? Raised cortisol levels can cause excess oil production, contributing to acne breakouts.

Tummy Trouble. Prolonged stress can increase stomach acid, causing indigestion, discomfort and the potential development of IBS or ulcers.

Distressed Sleep. Mental stress and the accompanying mind chatter can be a sleep-interrupter. Plus, a common side effect of increased cortisol is a pattern of waking up during the night. Lack of sleep can lead to fogginess, irritability and low energy, causing more stress and continuing the cycle. The body’s functions rest and reset during the sleep cycle, making healthy sleep a n important part of lowering the stress response.

Weight Woes. Research has linked heightened levels of cortisol to weight gain and belly fat. In addition, stress may trigger emotional eating and increased cravings. To add insult to injury, cortisol-related weight gain can be difficult to reverse, making weight loss a more challenging task.

Seeking advice from a trusted healthcare provider is important for any woman that thinks stress and cortisol may be affecting her health, but mind-body awareness should also remain integral to her day. Take time to stop, breathe deeply and be aware, and then explore ways to turn down the volume on stress.

Christine Tentilucci is the marketing manager for Inner Spa, a fully organic, holistic, eco-friendly wellness spa in Newtown. For more information, call 215-968-9000, email Christine@InnerSpa.org, or visit InnerSpa.org and InnerVitalitySpa.com.

May 2016 Issue