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STRENGTH AND VULNERABILITY: Have the courage to look into the heart of uncomfortable truths with these choices from S&H.

At Peace

Choosing a Good Death after a Long Life By Samuel Harrington MD

GRAND CENTRAL LIFE & STYLE

"HOW DO YOU WANT TO DIE?" asks Samuel Harrington MD. "Do you want to suffer? Do you want your last conscious sensations to be the chest compressions of an emergency medical technician (EMT) separating your sternum from your ribs?"

Harrington, a graduate of Harvard College and the University of Wisconsin Medical School, served as Sibley Memorial Hospital's patient safety officer representative to the Johns Hopkins Medicine Board of Trustees. His experiences as a gastroenterologist gave him a firsthand understanding of the limitations and hazards of "assembly-line care."

As such, he advises readers of At Peace to be wary of a health care system "designed to treat excessively." Using his father's story as an example of a good death, Harrington outlines steps that can be taken to avoid a medicalized death, characterized by what he calls "the state of a semi-conscious patient in an ICU or nursing home who is subjected to medical treatments beyond their direct wishes or beyond common sense."

At Peace takes a realistic look at the difficulties one is likely to encounter after age 75, presenting an overview of diseases commonly responsible for death in one's later years. For those who have come to the conclusion that an earlier death in relative comfort is preferable to a protracted one in a medical facility, Harrington discusses how to have "The Conversation" with a loved one about end-of-life wishes; explores the ethics and legalities of the voluntary refusal of fluid and food; offers advice on the preparation of advance directives; and encourages readers to create a vision of their own death. It is the author's hope that this information will "maximize the possibility that one can pass away surrounded by friends and family, with minimal suffering, uninterrupted by ineffective medical interventions, at home (if desired or possible) and at peace."

--DAMON ORION

The Nest in the Stream

Lessons from Nature on Being with Pain By Michael Kearney MD

PARALLAX PRESS

MICHAEL KEARNEY MD'S holistic approach to medicine is inseparable from his connection to nature. His methods of treating pain are informed by more than 10 years of Native American sweat lodges, as well as by Celtic and Buddhist wisdom, the teachings of Carl Jung and author/activist Joanna Macy, and his studies of the therapeutic use of guided imagery, dreamwork, and active imagination.

In The Nest in the Stream, Kearney draws on his experiences as a palliative care physician to illustrate various ways of dealing with suffering, specifically those that his medical training did not address. Early in the book, he describes treating a patient with advanced cancer of the bowel. In reference to this patient and others like him he writes, "Finding medical answers is not the problem. The real challenge is something deeper, something more subtle, pervasive and intractable: those elements of human anguish that lurk within and around and beyond the physical pain, the non-physical dimensions of pain that do not have an easy fix."

The author shares stories of nature connection; offers some daily practices that include prayer, mindfulness meditation, and gratitude ritual; and elucidates the archetype of Chiron, the wounded healer. According to Kearney, the path of the wounded healer entails staying present with one's own pain rather than seeking to avoid it. "By staying with our woundedness, we encourage the other to stay with theirs; that is when and how healing happens," he believes. "The wounded healer agrees with Rumi when he says, 'Don't turn your head. Keep looking at the bandaged place. That's where the light enters you.'"--DO

Hormonal

The Hidden Intelligence of Hormones--How they drive desire, shape relationships, influence our choices, and make us wiser By Martie Haselton PhD

LITTLE, BROWN AND COMPANY

"SOME BELIEVE that any biological explanation for a woman's behavior will keep her from achieving," writes Martie Haselton PhD in her new book, Hormonal. After all, women have been accused for centuries of being irrational and volatile due to our hormones, and therefore unfit for leadership roles. Remember the (female) GEO who declared that Hillary Clinton shouldn't be president because "with the hormones we have, there is no way [a woman] should be able to start a war." And let's not forget that our current president famously accused a newscaster of "bleeding out of her whatever." So "the implication for researchers is that we should keep information about women's hormones and their behavior on the down low," Haselton writes. Luckily, she rejects this notion.

Haselton is in fact perfectly willing to sail into subjects that aren't comfortable for many of us. She's the director of the Evolutionary Psychology Lab at UCLA and the world's foremost authority on how ovulatory cycles influence women's sexuality. I love her attitude, which is that women absolutely have the power to choose their actions, but being clueless about our own bodies does us a disservice. This is a juicy, funny read--who knew evolution could be so racy?--and easy for a layperson like myself to understand. She quashes long-held myths, such as that women all cycle at the same time if they live together, and completely blows up the idea that women are naturally submissive to males or uninterested in sex. Women's bodies and minds are fascinating, and as Haselton writes, it's high time we "embrace the intelligence that comes with being hormonal."

--KATHRYN DRURY WAGNER

Brain Food

The Surprising Science of Eating for Cognitive Power By Lisa Mosconi PhD

AVERY

THE SUDDEN JOLT of a sugar fix followed by brain fog is all it takes, for many of us, to recognize that a connection exists between our food choices and cognitive function. Do we really need an entire book to extrapolate on this concept? Of course we do. In Brain Food: The Surprising Science of Eating for Cognitive Power, author Dr. Lisa Mosconi takes the long view. The connection between food and brain function, particularly in regard to brain changes leading to dementia, is built over decades. That sugar rush? It's just the opening chapter of a very complex story.

"Food is information," writes Mosconi. "Dietary nutrients are nothing less than biological signals that, upon entering our systems, are 'read' by your cells." The question for readers is how "legible" their diet is to their brain. Mosconi parses recent trends in diet and nutrition, from gluten-free and paleo diets to the infatuation with omega-3s and antioxidants, and explains exactly the impact each has on the brain. Brain Food offers no magic bullets or absolute evils, nor does it present DNA as destiny. (In fact, certain foods act as on/off switches for our genes.) The focus is neuro-nutrition, or the complex ways nutrients work in tandem with each human's unique biochemistry to promote optimal brain function. (Not to mention lifestyle. The busy and overwhelmed will appreciate the easy recipes included.) Mosconi is a huge fan of berries and olive oil, but emphasizes that it's the complex interaction of nutrients within these items, perfected by years of evolution, that makes them so potent.

This book is as timely as it is eye-opening, in a period when life spans are increasing and awareness grows about the way brain chemistry is shaped by emotional history and environment in addition to food. That synchronicity gives this reader a bit of a rush.

--ALIZAR SALARIO

REVIEWS // music

Wilder Shores

Belinda Carlisle

SPIRIT VOYAGE

BELINDA CARLISLE'S NEW ALBUM, Wilder Shores, has the former Go-Go's singer blending pop with Kundalini mantra chants, a surprising and wonderful addition to her string of hit solo albums. "Every album I've done has made sense in reflecting where I've been at that time," she told S&H.

Before she cofounded The Go-Go's in 1978, Carlisle was drummer for the Los Angeles punk band The Germs. "My musical beginnings came out of garage punk and that early music was always a real expression of where I was at inside," she told S&H. "It wasn't necessarily angry, but it was a complete anything-goes form of self-expression. And mantra is pretty much the same thing. Both are forms of self-expression."

Wilder Shores features vocalist Simrit Kaur on three tracks as well as sister Go-Go Charlotte Caffey adding backup vocals. Most of the songs are Sikh chants sung in Gurmukhi, like "Adi Shaki" and "Har Gobinday." There's also a new acoustic version of Carlisle's 1987 hit song, "Heaven Is a Place on Earth." Carlisle explained, "The lyrics on that song are very yogic and they make a lot of sense on this album."

Carlisle's plan to combine pop and mantras wasn't immediately embraced. "To be honest, almost everybody didn't want to know about it," she said. "In the spiritual community they didn't understand it. And my record company also didn't get it. So, I just thought, If nobody responds to it, then at least I liked it! That's been my attitude anyway with my last albums like Voila [2007], which was all in French."

Carlisle began practicing Kundalini yoga 26 years ago when pregnant with her son. "During that time I was battling my own addiction demons," she told S&H. "When I got sober, almost 13 years ago, I started a consistent practice. So I know its power."

--JOHN MALKIN

My Name Is Bear

Nahko

SIDEONEDUMMY RECORDS

"WE ALL MUST FIND our own way home." This phrase rests on the booklet cover inside Nahko's first solo album, My Name Is Bear, and it's the ideal aphorism for these songs and voice recordings of spiritual self-discovery from a young nomad. Nahko was adopted at birth and My Name Is Bear chronicles his journeys through Alaska, Louisiana, Oregon, and Hawaii and meeting his birth mother. "Those 3 years before I met my mother would offer a reclaiming of my name, finding new faith and fever for my own spiritual connection to Creator, and discovering first love," Nahko writes in his liner notes.

My Name Is Bear adds intimate depth to three previous studio albums by Nahko and Medicine for the People, including 2016's "Hoka." Reminiscent of Michael Franti, Nahko's music is grounded in community and love of mother earth. His vocals and piano/guitar front a tight band that moves from ballads to dance-all-night rockers.

"Dragonfly" begins the journey, a song written when Nahko was 18 years young living the life of a free traveler. On "Kirby, Joe" Nahko remembers, "Two young lovers with room to grow / Let's see who can do three cartwheels in a row." On the spoken word interlude "Bearly Thoughts" Nahko says, "My body's very tired from coffee, from marijuana.... You only live once. Live it up!"

"Be Here Now" was inspired by the 1971 book by Ram Dass, and "Creation's Daughter" is a waltz that describes Nahko's desert experiences at Burning Man: "I have seen faces gathering in the desert / Not to find God or to find an answer / Just to be a part of the possibilities."

--JM

Jala

Charanpal

CHARANPAL MUSIC

IT'S FOR GOOD REASON that Charanpal's latest album has a more somber feel than its predecessor, 2015's Aeons. Named after her miscarried child, Jala contains music that the American vocalist/multi-instrumentalist created to help ease the grief of her loss.

Charanpal, whose singing is as sweet and silky as ever, plays instruments including guitar, harmonium, piano, banjo, and kalimba on these eight devotional chants, whose melodies she believes were composed by this album's namesake. In addition to cello, drums, and synth from various guests, these songs are enhanced by binaural beats and sampled sounds such as whale calls.

Jala's mantras for healing and releasing grief are largely sung in Gurbani, a Sikh term that means "words of the guru" or "songs of the guru." One notable exception is the opening track, "Blue Lotus Feet (Asherah)," which begins with a chant to the Divine Mother in English and ends with a dreamlike, slow-motion Hebrew chant to the goddess of Heaven and fertility in an ancient Semitic religion.

Arguably the most upbeat offerings on this album are "Rivers" and "Puta Mata Ki Asis," the latter being a shabad (sacred song) composed by the fifth Sikh Master, Guru Arjan, as a mother's prayer for her child's well-being and liberation in this lifetime. Some call-and-response vocals on this tune from the Redwood Chamber Choir of Santa Cruz, California, evoke images of a dialogue between mother and child.

One of Jala's most touching moments occurs in "On the Shore," in which Charanpal sings directly to her unborn daughter in English: "Light will one day split me open, and I will search no more. When I come crossing this world ocean, I'll find you on the shore."

--DAMON ORION

I LIGHT WILL ONE DAY SPLIT ME OPEN, AND I WILL SEARCH NO MORE."

The Departure

Directed by Lana Wilson FILMRISE

"I WANT TO DIE." "I feel like my life has no meaning." "I can't survive alone anymore." "I should just disappear." These are the kinds of messages that Tokyo priest Ittestsu Nemoto receives regularly. A former raver and screw-up whose life changed years ago when he answered a newspaper ad looking for a monk, Nemoto has devoted his life to helping suicidal, troubled souls find reasons to go on living. One of his key efforts is a regular retreat called "The Departure" where people can experience the emotional toll of death as a way of understanding the level of loss that it entails. Nemoto's startling compassion and dedication to his cause is not without its own toll, however; although he's just in his mid-40s, he's already suffered one heart attack and seems to be on the verge of another, and his doctors are convinced that the stress of his job has something to do with it. But what should this man do? Each unanswered call could be one more person on the edge who desperately needs his help.

Director Lana Wilson's remarkable, beautifully shot documentary takes this potentially depressing subject and turns it into something surprisingly lyrical. It's a difficult needle to thread: Even as we watch Nemoto go through his day, dealing with people who have reached the end of their rope while also confronting his own mortality, we also need to understand the wonder and beauty that he still sees in life. This is a film that is clear-eyed about human frailty and sadness, but also deeply in love with the very nature of our existence.

--BILGE EBIRI

The Divine Order

Petra Volpe ZODIAC FILMS

IN 1971, as the rest of the world undergoes social and political upheaval, a small village in Switzerland is still stuck in the dark ages, when men are men and women are inferior beings who understand their place in the "divine order." When some local women decide they might want the right to vote, the town is thrown into disarray. Director Petra Volpe's well-acted, atmospheric comedy-drama focuses on a shy young housewife and mother who reluctantly takes matters into her own hands and helps organize a "women's strike"--even though it means the scorn of her own family and her beloved husband. As she gradually finds her voice, the women around her join forces in solidarity.

This is a deceptively complex treatment of a fascinating historical subject: At first, as these women are regarded by the local menfolk and other conservative types with bemusement, the film works like a quirky comedy. But eventually, as the situation grows heated, the story becomes more and more of a drama--and a surprisingly powerful one, at that.

--BE

What Lies Upstream

Cullen Hoback

HYRAX FILMS

THE CYNICAL COLLUSION between corporations and government to gut the regulations that keep our water safe and clean is tackled in compelling, infuriating fashion in Cullen Hoback's investigative documentary. The filmmaker begins by following the effects of a dangerous leak in the unfortunately named West Virginia coal-mining community of Chemical Valley, an area to which Hoback himself has some personal connections. But he gradually expands his expose, showing not just the backroom dealings and stonewalling that allow these kinds of calamities to continue, but also the slow, dispiriting way that power corrupts even those public servants and doctors who may have begun their careers with the noblest of intentions.

There's a lot to cover here, and Hoback isn't always able to keep all his various threads in focus: The issues raised in this film are, as you may expect, extremely intricate. And the director does have a tendency to put himself in front of the camera a bit too much. But overall, this is a worthy, informative documentary about a subject critical to our health.

--BE

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Publication:Spirituality & Health Magazine
Date:Mar 1, 2018
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