Saturday, May 19, 2018

Gretchen Steidle on Leading from Within & Conscious Social Change and Mindfulness for Social Innovation

In this interview, Gretchen Steidle talks to Alexander “The Engineer” Lim, host of AuthorStory by alvinwriter.com about her book, Leading From Within: Conscious Social Change and Mindfulness for Social Innovation.



“The most important thing you can do before you decide to establish your own work in the world is to listen deeply to those who are affected by the issue.” ~Gretchen Steidle

Gretchen has been working in the international non-profit sector as a social entrepreneur as well as in the mindfulness sector for the past fifteen years. Even when she started out, it was obvious to Gretchen that investing in one’s well-being and personal wellness were important to do the work necessary to create sustainable, positive change. She realizes that, in the present environment of division and burned out activists, mindfulness is a tool not only for oneself but also influences how relationships are built and problems solved - which is vital for leaders.

Gretchen had started working on different components of Leading From Within for around three years before she was asked if she wanted to write a book, and her answer was “yes,” which has resulted in the book being so published.

Gretchen believes that those organizations and individuals which seek to advance the world in some way use methods to influence or force others to effect the change desired. She notes that we, as individuals, look to someone outside of ourselves to make changes, and when that other person doesn’t change permanently, we get frustrated and fall into the blame game, which runs counter to our need to understand each other at a deep, human level. Gretchen remarks that knowing what drives change, what it is within us that resists it, and the dynamics at the root level of an issue are necessary, and using mindfulness enables one to become an expert in both internal and external change and, thus, lasting, long-term transformation.

Gretchen gives, as an example, the tax on smoking, which is intended to limit the number of people who smoke. She points out that this only affects those who aren’t serious smokers, and if the tax is removed, those non-serious smokers will be more likely to take up smoking again. Serious smokers won’t stop smoking, even if the tax were levied, because of the addiction underlying their smoking habit. Gretchen’s method would take into account how smoking begins, how to treat addiction, and the challenges facing people who are in this situation.

Mindfulness is at the basis of Gretchen’s methodology and philosophy, and her definition is that stated by John Kabat-Zinn: “Paying attention on purpose in this present moment.” This means being aware, in the present moment, of all that is happening within and around oneself, such as one’s mood, mental activity and physical state as well as what is ongoing around oneself. She also notes that mindfulness is “practiced with a quality of curiosity and non-judgement,” which means that we notice all this without judging oneself or the world around.

Gretchen notes that there are many different ways to cultivate mindfulness, which she notes is a form of training one’s brain, as one exercises one’s brain by being mindful. She also notes that science is presently showing that the structure and function of one’s brain changes when one does so, and that, while meditation can be used to become mindful, one can also use cues throughout the day to become mindful.

There are five aspects to Gretchen’s movement of Conscious Social Change, and these are:
  1. Cultivating presence, which is about practicing to become more mindful. This enables one to figure out how to change, as well as how difficult change actually is.
  2. Becoming whole, which is when one begins to change the way one interacts with the world. This is critical to allowing one to deal with others as allies, rather than as opponents.
  3. Ensuring balance, which is when one becomes aware when one needs to restore oneself, which is necessary to not being burned out.
  4. Engaging mindfully, which is when one uses the skills one has developed and apply these to dealing with others. This enables one to put aside one’s ego and bias to understand others and the common ground between oneself and others, which creates a deeper understanding of issues and collaborative solutions which create long-term transformation.
  5. Leading from within, which is when one is driven by one’s own passions rather than personal gain and when one is oriented to benefiting others as well as inspiring others to meaningfully function in deference to a common cause.
Where results are concerned, the biggest example of a success that Gretchen spoke of was when, some ten years back, Global Grassroots dealt with a village that wanted clean, drinking water. A normal non-profit would have just dug a well and turned it over to the village, but Gretchen and her people spoke to the women in the village to get the context of the situation, as the women had more information than they had. The present situation was that women needed to travel several miles and up and down a steep slope to get water from a questionable source, and that, along the way, they were vulnerable, while carrying such heavy water, to being physically and sexually attacked. Some of the village girls could help out with this, but because the trip took literally hours the girls would come to school late, fall behind in their lessons and eventually drop out. This also led to a practice within the village of women, particularly the disabled, exchanging sexual favors with men so that the latter would be the ones to draw water; and this was the main issue that the women wanted to work on.

The solution Gretchen’s group provided gave the village a good source of clean water, and the village could sell the water to those who could afford it and give it to the sexually exploited women for free. This led to a shift in the relationships between the men and the women in the village, particularly when the men saw how valuable the project was, with the men volunteering to take shifts with elderly women so that the latter’s water wouldn’t be stolen. With the money they got from selling the water, they were able to buy women’s health insurance and pay for orphans’ school fees, as well as provide loans to start small businesses.

It didn’t stop there, for the villagers shared their solution with other villages, and other villages adopted their model. The village started off by serving a hundred households and, ten years later, some 9,000 people have benefited from the solution Gretchen’s group provided - a solution which was borne by the collaborative, mindful and patient methods Gretchen espouses.

Purchase from Amazon: Leading From Within: Conscious Social Change and Mindfulness for Social Innovation by Gretchen Steidle

Friday, May 11, 2018

Eliza Factor on Caring for a Child with Periventricular Leukomalacia (PVL)

In this interview, Eliza Factor talks to Alexander “The Engineer” Lim, host of AuthorStory by alvinwriter.com about her book, Strange Beauty: A Portrait of My Son.


“We work better by working with other people and helping other people.” ~Eliza Factor

Although Eliza didn’t have a typical middle class life until she settled down with her husband, she describes herself as a “typical person” leading a normal life before her son, Felix, entered her life. She contracted chickenpox while she was pregnant with Felix, and this impacted Felix. He was born early and his being “floppy” after he was born was initially racked up to his being a premature baby. Eliza and her husband then began going to doctors and getting Felix tested before he was finally diagnosed with having periventricular leukomalacia, which is essentially when the brain’s white matter is damaged during fetal development. This has led to Felix’s combination of cerebral palsy and autism as the two major conditions which he has to this day.

At the time that he was diagnosed, at the age of one, nobody could tell Eliza if Felix would even walk or talk, and it was then that Eliza realized that her son wouldn’t grow up the way other children did. Eliza notes that diagnoses are the labels presently used today to access the services one needs, as even a diagnosis like “autism” is a basket terms to describe various conditions. She remarks that Felix’s conditions mean that he can’t do things for himself, although he can do such things as standing up, if he is helped. Eliza also notes that, despite the violent behavior that Felix exhibited, and despite having some limitations with communicating, such as describing things in the past tense, he is very communicative, with an ability to strongly connect with others and share with them an “infectious” sense of humor. Despite this, Felix apparently has a far more tenuous connection with his body than others, with Eliza hazarding that Felix can most likely feel pain but doesn’t know where exactly it comes from.

Felix lived at home until the age of ten, and Eliza describes life with him as “rich, full and exhausting,” as it was also during that time when Felix displayed cyclical, violent behavior, during which times he would hit himself for periods of up to three days straight. She wrote Strange Beauty after placing Felix in a residential school, where he could live in an environment where his needs could be met, and with her home now feeling empty, she had the time to reflect on her experiences with Felix. Eliza attempts to explain the process of her journey within its pages, to the point of embracing and accepting the disabilities within Felix and recognizing the disabilities in herself and in others, which was liberating for her. She also wants to use the book as a way to open up conversations about what it’s like to live with a disabled child, particularly those who can become as violent as Felix could, and points out that what is needed is more specialized education programs in public schools as well as training amongst public servants on how violence can escalate and how to de-escalate it.

Eliza also learned how to read other people’s body language after years of observing Felix. She also realized that she needed help from others, not only when dealing with Felix’s outbursts but also with other aspects of her life. She notes that public support for parents and families with children who have conditions similar to Felix’s is lacking at present. Eliza remarks that there are people who may look and act normal but who have conditions similar to Felix’s (which cause outbursts of violence and behavior) who are punished, rather than helped.

Eliza notes that there were people out in the street who would walk up to her and Felix and interact with them, with some offering to help and most just saying “hi,” which were positive experiences for her. She started a community center for families with children who had disabilities, an art and play center which runs on a volunteer basis (and which is intended to be an indoor place which was open to everyone), as well as to use disability as a way to bring people together. Eliza notes that meeting within the confines of the community center, is energizing and fun for members of families whose common thread is having a disabled child, as it brings out the best in her as well as with everyone else involved.

Eliza also notes that Felix’s younger sisters had a good relationship with him when they were younger, but were jealous of such things as needing to be able to put on their clothes by themselves while Felix was given help. Their view of disability is different from most people, which is highlighted by the story that Eliza gave - about telling her daughter about a game she played as a child, when she and other kids would ask each other about what disability they would rather have. Eliza’s daughter was confused by the story, as her daughter had never considered blindness or deafness as being a disability.

To those who would find themselves in a position similar to Eliza’s, her advice is to love the child as they are, to seek help when needed, and to follow the child’s lead, as the child will give clues to how they want to be handled, as such children shouldn’t be forced to be something they aren’t. She also believes that all of us are disabled in some way, and that there is a lot of fear about this, but that that is the way humans are and that is okay, which opens up freedom for oneself and others.

Purchase from Amazon: Strange Beauty: A Portrait of My Son by Eliza Factor

Sunday, April 29, 2018

Tim Miller on Writing Fifty Shades of Hell and Fifty Plus Other Extreme Horror Books

In this interview, Tim Miller talks to Alexander “The Engineer” Lim, host of AuthorStory by alvinwriter.com about his book, Fifty Shades of Hell, a novel where Hellraiser meets Fifty Shades of Grey, as well as his body of work.


“Sometimes, you have to write the crap to get to the good stuff.” ~Tim Miller


Tim had been writing ever since he was a child, and he was influenced by authors such as Stephen King, Clive Barker, Michael Connelly, Thomas Harris and Jack Ketchum. It wasn’t until he was undergoing a divorce that he decided to venture into writing books as a way to relieve the stress he was then experiencing. After finishing his first book, The Hand of God, he signed up with a small publisher which, after a year, was bought out by another publisher, with whom Tim didn’t get along. The publisher then gave the rights to the book back to Tim, who then self-published it on Amazon, and ever since then, he has self-published some 53 books, in total, to date.

Tim, at the start, wrote extreme horror, which is essentially horror which goes into the taboos which aren’t done in mainstream media, such as details on what happens to the body when things such as a knife is plunged into it, which is presented in the messiest and most horrific way possible. He remarks that a lot of his readers are stay-at-home moms, although he admits, he has gotten e-mails from readers who have actually been aroused by the horrific scenes he writes. Recently, however, Tim has moved away from extreme horror and has gone into writing in other genres.

Tim’s books are relatively short, at around 30,000 words, which is how he is able to write so many in so short a time; he even remarked that, in the past two years or so, he has written around ten books a year. The ideas for stories come to him so fast that he has often decided to not create a sequel based on a book and characters he has already written and instead write a totally new book.

From his own experience, Tim noted that, for an author to get his book accepted by a publisher is a difficult process, necessitating the hiring of a reputable agent, who will then shop the book - as well as the books of the possibly hundreds of other authors that he represents - to various publishers. Once a publisher is interested in the book, the publisher then gets the rights to the book, which includes control over the cover and editing; and once the book is published, it usually isn’t marketed much by the publisher, which means that the author has to be the one to do the marketing himself. The publisher does give an author an advance payment, but Tim noted that the costs of marketing the book, by an author, come from this advance payment, and that the publisher doesn’t give additional money until the advance has been earned.

Self-publishing his own books works out well for Tim, as he has total creative control over his works, rather than having a publisher dictate changes to him based on market research. He has some model friends who help him come up with the cover images for his books, and he also works with an editor and designers who help him out with the graphic aspects. Tim also has beta readers who check on how the stories go and who give him the necessary input he might need to change a book’s title to make it stand out more. That said, Tim remarks that he has to contend with Amazon’s own internal censorship, which doesn’t tell authors why certain books get banned.

Tim notes that being business-minded is necessary to succeed in self-publishing, and that his willingness to learn is what enabled his present degree of success. He does all his marketing himself and has built up a good Twitter following. Tim remarks that marketing through Facebook is somewhat limiting, as Facebook presently doesn’t allow for too much advertising and promotion, but that he can post every hour, if he wanted to, on Twitter, which works out, as it relies on a chronological news feed. He also buys Amazon ads, and while he does buy Facebook ads he has noticed that these have become less helpful of late.

Tim remarks that Amazon pays 70% royalty on retail price, which means that, if a book sells for $2.99, the author gets $2 per book. This is in contrast with going through a small-time publisher, where an author will get around $1 per book for the same price sold on Amazon, and far less when going with a traditional publisher. Tim notes that small-time publishers are run by only one or two people and don’t do marketing or promotion for a book. He also shared his experience with a small publisher when he needed to order a batch of books to be printed for a book signing, and the publisher charged him more per book than these were being sold on Amazon. Tim also remarked that, as the press is small, any printing requests are dependent upon their printing schedule, and that the disreputable small presses don’t pay royalties to their authors. Moreover, when a small printing press stops operating, the book effectively dies, as all of the rights belong to the press, which means that the authors can’t get their books back for future reprints.

Where traditional publishers are concerned, Tim advises authors to go over the details of the contract given and then negotiate with the traditional publisher on the details of the contract. He also advises getting legal aid for contract negotiations, as he believes that it is ultimately the author’s responsibility to get the best deal he can for himself, and that, if there is something in the contract that an author isn’t comfortable with, the contract should not be signed.


To would-be authors, Tim recommends that they write the book out, first and foremost, before figuring out what to do with it afterwards. He also recommends that authors get clear on their goals, as how they proceed will depend on these. A horror writer who wants to win a Stoker award and get recognition, for example, should go with a small, reputable publisher, rather than self-publish, while those who would want to make money from their work would be better off self-publishing and then promote their book on various social media. Tim also notes that there are a lot more books being published nowadays compared to even a decade previously, which means that his earnings from his books has gone down somewhat, due to market saturation.

Tim has a “sidekick,” Sancho the chihuahua, who literally walked up to him one day. The chihuahua was friendly, and after Tim checked if there were any missing dogs around and couldn’t find any, decided to adopt him for good. According to Tim, Sancho oversees his writing and is in accord with his present shift in genres.


Purchase from Amazon: Fifty Shades of Hell by Tim Miller



Saturday, April 21, 2018

Robert Thorson and The Guide to Walden Pond (All You Need to Know)

In this interview, Professor Robert Thorson talks to Alexander “The Engineer” Lim, host of AuthorStory by alvinwriter.com about his book, The Guide to Walden Pond: An Exploration of the History, Nature, Landscape, and Literature of One of America’s Most Iconic Places.



“There’s nothing selfish about starting from within and defining your relationships in an outward direction.” ~Robert Thorson

Robert Thorson had become enamored of writer Henry David Thoreau, author of the book, Walden, while he was in college. Within a year of moving from Alaska to New England, he finally visited Walden Pond, the centerpoint of Thoreau’s book, and dropped a stone from his former home, marking the start of his relationship with the famous lake. Thor, as he prefers to be called, has been running field trips at Walden Pond since 2004, and it was in the summer of 2017, during the bicentennial celebrations of Thoreau’s birthday, that he turned a student handout into a pamphlet. When his wife found out, she told him to go ahead and write a guide, which was something that surprised Thor since there was no guide at all despite the fact that the pond received around half a million visitors annually. Although Thor has written scholarly books, writing a guide wasn’t on his “to do” list, and while he does admit that The Guide to Walden Pond is a guidebook, complete with images and descriptions, it also has various essays within.

Henry David Thoreau was one of the first main exponents of the American environmental movement. His book, Walden, which took nine years, seven drafts and two bursts of writing to complete, was the starting point for a lot of American nature writing. Thoreau contemplated about a sense of place and belonging, rather than of travel and adventure, and is known for such books as Civil Disobedience. He was an influence on such people as Mahatma Gandhi, Leo Tolstoy and Martin Luther King.

Walden Pond, which is really a lake, is around a mile or so south of the village center of Concord, Massachusetts, which is now a suburb of Boston. Concord itself is known to historically be the place where American transcendentalism began in the mid-19th century. Walden Pond itself is just one small lake in a chain of lakes in the area. As a lake, The Pond is deep and 62 acres in a woodland area at the center of a state reservation (actually a state park). In Thoreau’s time, access to the lake was done via railroad and was somewhat difficult; today, access is east through roads. There were was such a glut of visitors to Walden Pond in Thoreau’s time, both from the United States and internationally, that consequently, the number of visitors was limited by authorities in the 1970s to maintain it in the spirit of Thoreau.

For visitors, Walden Pond is the subject of Thoreau’s famous book about a place, Walden, but for Thoreau, it was a small and otherwise ordinary lake where he could get distance himself from normal, hurried life; a place where he could write, relax and contemplate. The lake’s shape, from his viewpoint, reflected such attributes of Thoreau such as simplicity, resilience, purity and symmetry, and became, to him, a source of inspiration. Thoreau could also see the sun rise from his house by the Pond, which served as a metaphor for rebirth. As for his house, it was a small one-room cabin and was reached by a carriage road, within easy walking access to other human settlements nearby. Thoreau had a lot of visitors to his house during his stay there, with as many as thirty guests at any one time, and held organized meetings there.

Thor noted that four things made The Guide to Walden Pond special. Writing was one of these aspects, given the process by which the book was written, involving a gestation on the various aspects of human social relationships - the relationship between human and nature and what he read of the works of such people as Charles Darwin and Alexander Humboldt. Landscape - that of Walden Pond itself - was another aspect, given its depth and appearance. Solitude was also offered by his location, as he could remove himself from society to a place where he was at a “tension point” between Nature and human society.

Thor remarked that a lot of those who read the book would be “armchair ##s,” who would visit the Pond through the book, while there would be those who would both visit the Pond and read the book. Thor started out with the northeast sector, where the parking area and visitor’s center are, and which is all modern, as is the entire eastern side of Walden Pond. It is the western part of the pond which approximates the environment that Thoreau resided in, particularly the northwestern part of the pond, whose landscape remains authentic to Thoreau’s day. The tradition of leaving a token at the site of Thoreau’s house began in 1872 by a Mrs. Adams and has been continued ever since. The southwestern part of the lake is where the Pond has three coves of interest, and offers an opportunity to reflect on different aspects of Walden Pond’s history. The western end of Walden Pond is also where the original access, by railway, was, as well as a Victorian-era amusement park, which was started in 1886 and burned down in 1902. The southeastern sector of the lake affords a quiet, reflective walk as well as a view of both the natural and the modern landscape, before returning to the real world, which could provide some reflection to visitors on the changes that have happened.

Thor notes that, although Walden Pond is within twenty miles of a major city, it is still completely surrounded by large trees, which isn’t common for lakes closely sited near urban areas. Although one would think that the environs around the pond are untouched, Thor notes that these have all been affected by the hand of man at some previous time. Thor noted a study done on the Pond based on sediment core work since 1979, which showed that the microorganisms within are being affected by human pollution and are changing due to climate warming. He also noted that people go to Walden Pond not just for a pilgrimage but also for such activities as swimming in the lake and training for triathlons.

To those who are seeking some relief from the hectic, daily life, Thor recommends disconnecting and then looking inside oneself and “explore the Atlantic and Pacific Ocean of your own consciousness,” as Thoreau once stated, after which one can spread oneself out to the world around, regardless of what others think. Thor then noted that Thoreau reflected on the telegraph, which was a new technology of his day, and expressed concerned about the costs of technology itself, which is reflected in a line in Walden: “Men have become tools of their tools.”

Purchase from Amazon: The Guide to Walden Pond: An Exploration of the History, Nature, Landscape, and Literature of One of America’s Most Iconic Places by Robert Thorson


Thursday, March 29, 2018

Jaime Donally on Transporting Learning and Teaching into the Age of Immersive Technologies


In this interview, Jaime Donally talks to Alexander “The Engineer” Lim, host of AuthorStory by alvinwriter.com about her book, Learning Transported: Augmented, Virtual and Mixed Realityfor All Classrooms.



“I want teachers to know that these are the tools that we have for today, not someday.” ~Jaime Donally

One of the aspects that educators need to learn and grow in is the use of technology in the classroom which, Jaime notes, is more for the student than for anyone else. Jaime herself has been involved in instructional technology for several years, even before it became popular, working as a resource person and trainer with educators who implement and become familiar with how to use technology in teaching.

Jaime never gave much thought to writing a book, but she had a lot of material to work with. Learning Transported stemmed from the people she worked with asking for something “in black and white” which they could refer to after she had met with them. A representative from the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) then spoke with her about the possibility of writing a book on technology, and while Jaime originally thought that she would be supporting a writer who would do it, it dawned on her that the ISTE representative had her in mind as the book’s author. When asked if she would write the book, Jaime said, “Yes,” and the book sprang from there. Learning Transported covers aspects of technology “beyond the wow,” covering the immersive tools available at present. Being a practical person while doing things that aren’t the norm is part of Jaime’s personality, and this shows in the book, as it isn’t a “standard” book but also includes things to maintain a reader’s interest, complemented by lesson plans she designed herself and other tools to engage the reader.

ISTE is, according to Jaime, an international organization that focuses on integrating technology into education, and it conducts a yearly conference in the US. It has released standards for interactive technology, and the standards related to education revolve around enabling students to own their own learning and their creativity, thereby empowering them from just being students spoon-fed with information.

Jaime discusses the newly envisioned 2016-2017 ISTE standards in Learning Transported as well as various issues, such as why the technology is necessary and the importance of having such resources. Her book also reveals other aspects of technology which aren’t common knowledge to the public, giving information on the true depth and breadth of the technologies available. Jaime points out that such games as the popular video game Pokemon Go, which came out in 2016 and enabled participants to travel around the real world in order to capture virtual creatures, have brought awareness to such things as augmented reality to the public, and that its potential is far greater than what is commonly known.

Jaime Donally defines three kinds of immersive technology as follows:
  • Augmented reality is the kind highlighted by the aforementioned Pokemon Go game, where a digital world is superimposed on the real world through a technological device.
  • Virtual reality is a purely digital reality which allows the participant to look around in a world or reality other than that of the real world, moving, seeing and experiencing that world in the same way one would the real world.
  • Mixed reality is a takeoff from augmented reality, where the digital images can move in the real world as if it’s an actual object. The process is based on the computer’s recognition of both the image as an object that influences the lighting in the place where it is superimposed.
Jaime remarks that learning is done in three dimensions, and learning in augmented, virtual and mixed realities enables them to learn and create more naturally. She notes that a lot of money is going into developing interactive technologies and that, some years back, it wasn’t a topic of discussion amongst educators, unlike the way it is at present. Jaime notes that, at present, immersive technology is still not mature, and that “pockets” of interactive technologies are what exist at the present, rather than a widespread or mainstream use. Companies presently use interactive technology far more than schools do, and Jaime admits that education does lag where technology use is concerned.

Jaime notes that the term “disruptive technology” is what’s most often associated with interactive technology, and while she acknowledges the fear that educators have when embracing a new system, she also remarks that educators need to keep the students’ interests in mind. Interactive technology should, according to Jaime, match up with the skills and ways students would ultimately need to have and learn to succeed in life. Jaime notes that interactive technology will enable students to “own” their learning and unleash the students’ creative instincts, which would turn educators from being mere information feeders to facilitators who guide students in exploring their learning and creativity, giving them the freedom to become creators and producers of their own content. This is reflective of what is embodied by the new ISTE Standards which is very clear in the preamble:

The 2016 ISTE Standards for Students emphasize the skills and qualities we want for students, enabling them to engage and thrive in a connected, digital world… The reward, however, will be educators who skillfully mentor and inspire students to amplify learning with technology and challenge them to be agents of their own learning.”



Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Martha Howard, M.D. Reveals the Secret to Being Alive and Well

In this interview, Martha Howard, M.D., talks to Alexander “The Engineer” Lim, host of AuthorStory by alvinwriter.com about her book, Alive and Well: Your Survival Guide for the Health Care Apocalypse.



“I’d like to see the generation of my grandchildren be as healthy as the adults were when I was a kid in the 1940s.” ~Dr. Martha Howard

Throughout the years of practicing medicine and seeing so many unwell patients, Dr. Howard found herself wondering what happened to health care in the United States, particularly when she compared how healthy, energetic and slim people were when she was a child in the 1940s. According to her, one in three people in the United States is obese; six out of ten people have at least one chronic illness, and a sizeable proportion of these have more than one chronic illness. (Chronic illnesses, according to Dr. Howard, are due to vitamin and mineral deficiencies, and covers such things as allergies, arthritis, Alzheimer’s, high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease, lung disease and pulmonary disease.) This made her think about what could be done about the present state, and her book, Alive and Well sprang from all the research she did.

Alive and Well is a “make it happen” book, according to Dr. Howard, and while around forty pages of the book are related to what she sees as what is wrong with the state of the health industry in the United States, the rest of the nearly four hundred pages are dedicated to her recommendations of what to do when one has particular health concerns. Her recommendations are based on 35 years of practice and thousands of patients and are ones which have worked.

Dr. Howard became interested in acupuncture when, after she got involved in a car accident, her neck was broken. She went to several doctors who suggested either living with it or taking painkillers, which she was reluctant to do. She then found an acupuncturist who, in three months’ time, fixed her neck, and after that, she apprenticed under the acupuncturist for two years. As she lived in Illinois, however, she couldn’t practice without a medical degree, which was why she went to medical school and got her medical degree at the age of forty-one. Dr. Howard uses “integrative medicine” in her practice, which means that she uses what she considers to be the best of Western and traditional Eastern medicine, those practices which work.

Dr. Howard points out that there are five major “Horsemen” or big market forces in the United States that keep people unhealthy. These Horsemen are:

  • The Medical Industry, rather than the “medical profession.” Dr. Howard points out that a study from Johns Hopkins found that medical misdiagnosis and errors are the third leading cause of death in the United States.
  • Big Pharm, the pharmaceutical industry, which Dr. Howard describes as a “robber baron.” She gave the example of Martin Shkreli, who raised the price of the drug, Daraprim, over fifty times its previously-sold price, and also noted that prices of drugs in the United States cost anywhere from three to six times more than the same drug in Canada and Western European countries.
  • Big Food, which Dr. Howard holds responsible for the obesity epidemic. She noted that the sugar industry, according to an article published in JAMA in September, 2016, in the 1960s, had pushed sugar, despite the fact that it was known to be a factor in coronary heart disease, and paid scientists to show that it was fat that was unhealthy. According to Dr. Howard, the food industry then fell into lockstep, pushing high sugar, low-fat foods as a healthy option, as well as “hijacking” healthy foods with sugar.
  • Big Ag, or, as she calls it, a “master of chemical attack strategies.” Dr. Howard points out that Big Ag’s extensive use of antibiotics endangers people who enter a hospital for an emergency due to this. She also remarks that the chemicals used in agriculture, such as chlorpyriphos, which was originally developed as a nerve gas, can cause brain damage in children.
  • Big Pol, or the politicians whom Dr. Howard calls “profit-mad health care demolition experts.” She stated that big politics has been attempting to destroy the health care system for decades, as well as in specific ways, such as being part of the opioid epidemic. According to Dr. Howard, Big Pharm has paid Big Pol to ensure that punishments for excessive or improper prescription of opioids are light, which results in people being addicted to opioids when they likely wouldn’t have been.

Dr. Howard notes that the diagnostic system is broken, and gave the example of a patient who goes to a doctor with a complaint, such as an irritated bowel. The doctor will then say that the patient does have the complaint he has and then give a drug without figuring out why the patient has that complaint in the first place. Dr. Howard opines that the “clockwork” way of viewing the human body, where healing one part will ensure that the entire mechanism keeps running well, is not appropriate, as the human body is an ecosystem which interacts not only among the various parts within it, but also with the environment around it. This is why she focuses on holistic healing, and gave the example of Dr. Bredesen, who is the director of the Alzheimer’s Disease program at the UCLA David Geffen School of Medicine, who undertook a study on treating patients with Alzheimer’s. Dr. Bredesen treated Alzheimer’s holistically, dealing with such aspects as food, sleep, dental hygiene and exercise, rather than just prescribing drugs, and six of the ten people in his study were able to return to work after being forced to leave it because of their condition.

Dr. Howard believes that the biological systems of human beings are still geared to a hunter-gatherer diet, rather than one based on grains, as this was the kind of diet that humanity has lived on for most of its existence. She notes that she had good results with her patients when they undertook the “paleo” diet, which she claims is easy and simple. Where exercise is concerned, Dr. Howard notes that doing interval exercise, which speeds up and slows down one’s heart rate comfortably, is the best kind to do, with twelve to fifteen minutes of exercise, four times a week being sufficient.

In the end, Dr. Howard would like public health in the United States to turn around, and have future generations of children as healthy as children during the time when she was a child.

Purchase from Amazon: Alive and Well: Your Survival Guide for the Health Care Apocalypse by Dr. Martha Howard

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Thomas Moore on Our Lifelong Journey Towards Meaning and Joy

In this interview, Thomas Moore talks to Alexander “The Engineer” Lim, host of AuthorStory by alvinwriter.com about his book, Ageless Soul: The Lifelong Journey Towards Meaning and Joy.



“There is something very valuable about getting older.” ~Thomas Moore

Author Thomas Moore with Oprah.
Thomas didn’t think he would be a writer, when he was young, as he loved words, and was considering becoming a college professor before taking the path his life eventually took, and is presently writing about the things he likes to write about. Thomas wrote Ageless Soul, which sprang from his book Care of the Soul, which has become a “basic book” from which other books were written, and which he has written, as he is a senior, himself. Ageless Soul is about the inner details of ageing, which doesn’t happen only in old age, and Thomas notes that people who turn from their twenties to their thirties go through a passage in their life. He reframes the subject matter concerned in all of his books, and the process was no different with Ageless Soul, which enabled him to come to some interesting conclusions.

Thomas notes that fear is a natural part of life, but that people shouldn’t get overwhelmed by this and should, rather, acknowledge such fears, as fear and ageing are part of the human experience. He notes that, as people get older, the struggles that they worked with when they were younger get become more settled, and that people can then address the issues that concern their soul, as getting older becomes a better place to be. Thomas acknowledges the physical aspects of getting older and notes that the key is to not view oneself as a merely physical being, which is a materialistic outlook. Making the shift in looking at ourselves as having a spiritual aspect, according to him, helps one to realize that ageing isn’t so bad. Doing this enables one to slow down, become more contemplative and spend time to do nothing as well as to walk and get close to nature, which enables one to get in touch with one’s spirituality.

Thomas notes that “growing older” is different from “ageing and maturing,” giving examples of people who have died young but who have the kind of profound insight and knowledge that is more applicable to one who has lived and entire life and had matured. He notes that people who have grown older but who haven’t matured haven’t had the kind of life experiences necessary to do so and defines ageing as one taking life on, with all its invitations. Such involves change and taking risks, which is something not everyone does.

Thomas went over some of the stages of ageing, which are:

  • The first taste of ageing, which is a realization that one is ageing when one notices a somewhat insignificant event, such as one’s first gray hair or wrinkle;
  • A “heroic mode,” which is the period of life when one “rolls along,” building oneself and one’s family and career;
  • The “empty nest” syndrome, which is when one realizes that one has to change the way one lives;
  • Movement towards thinking about retirement, when one realizes that both retirement and old age are approaching;
  • Being actually old, where a significant shift is felt.

Thomas notes that adjusting to, and accepting, the process enables one to handle the transitions better and helps one live a full life in old age. He remarks that one needs to reflect to get in touch with one’s spiritual self to successfully live in one’s old age and gave such examples as reflecting and connecting with the spirit through art or poetry, without which ageing becomes a sudden shock.

Thomas remarks that the anger that comes out in old age, which could cause one to be considered cantankerous and chronically angry, come from past unsettled issues, which could come from when they were still children, and that this anger is triggered by the realization that the world is changing at a time when they had learned to become effective in the world. The anger also causes other people to become lonely and disconnected with others and the world at large.

Thomas remarks that the experience of connecting with one’s spirituality in one’s old age differs from person to person, and that, in old age, one is looking for something more than just “going to church.” For him, being connected to nature and the arts are doorways that enable one to have a spiritual outlook on life, noting that, when one is retired, one has time to do so. Thomas also notes that, when one is old, one has something to give back, experiences reflected upon, which give the elderly something to say, which can make one a good mentor and which makes one’s life more meaningful. He also notes that youth and age have to remain together in one’s sense of self, which is possible, as well as to be around young people, as doing so enables one to remain flexible.

When interacting with others, Thomas remarks that how he comes across to others is more important than what he actually says to others, which makes others remark to Thomas that he seems younger than he actually is. That said, Thomas acknowledges that there are things he can no longer do physically, as well as that there are other things he can do, in ways where he shows that it is possible to grow older without surrendering to age.

Purchase from Amazon: Ageless Soul: The Lifelong Journey Towards Meaning and Joy by Thomas Moore