Health & Wellness

Herbal and natural remedies and wellness.

Review: Sacred Land, by Clea Danaan

By Psyche | November 17, 2007 | 1 comment

Sacred Land: Intuitive Gardening for Personal, Political and Environmental Change, by Clea Danaan
Llewellyn Worldwide, 9780738711461, 266 pp. (incl. end notes appendix, sources and index), 2004

Last year was the first I attempted to grow anything in our vegetable garden. I knew I wanted to grow organic, but I went in more or less blind. It wasn’t a raging success, but we did get a few peppers and tomatoes. This is the book I wish I had read prior to starting my garden, unfortunately it wasn’t published then, but, lucky you, it’s out now. Continue reading

Review: Fast Food Nation, by Eric Schlosser

By Psyche | May 10, 2004 | Leave a comment

Fast Food Nation: The Dark Side of the All-American Meal, by Eric Schlosser
HarperCollins, 0060938455, 383 pp. (incl. photo credits, notes, bibliography, acknowledgements, and index.), 2001, 2002

Fast Food Nation is not for the faint of heart with its horrifying depictions of livestock farms, slaughterhouses, the fast food restaurants and school cafeterias so many of us come into contact with, utterly blind.

Schlosser takes the blinds off the utter lack of respect for human and animal rights efficiently and devastatingly, with personal stories and anecdotes from around the world. Harassment, theft, intimidation, lawsuits without an end in sight.

One assumes with any book like this that animal rights issues will crop up, but these – cruelty to the livestock with overfeeding, overcrowding – are only the tip of the iceberg. Seemingly far worse, and more personally devastating, are the gruesome working conditions of the employees. Slave wages, injury without compensation, blatant harassment, and the sanitation conditions of the slaughterhouses, restaurants, and cafeteria are obscene. Suffice to say, I’m glad I was a vegetarian long before reading the book.

Yet despite all this, Schlosser remains positive, believing that that one day ‘people can be fed without being fattened or deceived’ Perhaps even a little over-optimistic, he hopes that ‘this new century may bring an impatience with conformity, a refusal to be kept in the dark, less greed, more compassion, less speed, more common sense, a sense of humor about brand essences and loyalties, a view of food as more than just fuel. Things don’t have to be the way they are’.

Meticulously researched with a massive sixty-three page detailed notes section, Schlosser’s work is quite impressive. Often horrifying, but always educational Fast Food Nation is an absolute must read for all.

Review: Incense, by Carl F. Neal

By Psyche | March 10, 2004 | Leave a comment

Incense: Crafting and Use of Magickal Scents, by Carl F. Neal
Llewellyn Worldwide, 0738703362, 149 pp. (incl. appendices, glossary, bibliography and index), 2003

In the introduction Neal lets the reader know that this will be a different sort of book, noting that it is not intended to make large quantities of incense, or incense for commercial purposes, as these often use synthetic materials. Neal prefers a more personal and natural approach to incense making. Incense covers a variety of techniques including stick, joss, cone and loose incense making, completely naturally. You won’t find any synthetic or dipped incense recipes in this book, and, if you’ll forgive the pun, it’s a breath of fresh air.

Brief histories of incense making around the world are given, acknowledging different philosophies and traditions. Also noting that many so-called ‘traditional’ recipes may only go back 10-20 years, and while still useful, may not really be historically accurate, but reminds the reader that this doesn’t diminish their wonderful scent. He also gets into various incense philosophies, the ethics of incense making, for example whether or not to use animal material (he advises not), rare poached plants, possible attempts at fraud by merchants of incense materials, etc.

Neal discusses the possible dangers of synthetic based dipped incenses, the possible toxins and harmful effects, as well as the dangers of saltpetre found in most commercial charcoals, and why he prefers to use more natural materials. He seems to have a special reverence for Japanese incense making techniques, philosophies and practices, and several are detailed within.

A variety of recipes are offered, including numerous ‘traditional’ scents, and ritual-specific recipes such as ‘Sanctification’, ‘Handfasting’ and even ‘Happy Cats’, followed by a chapter on experimentation, which he encourages, whereas some other books don’t mention or avoid for fear of making something ‘dangerous’, but without the use of saltpetre, as Neal advises, this is unlikely to be a problem.

Advises making nice smelling incense, but also notes that one might want to ‘make incense that does not create a pleasing scent, strictly because of the magickal alignment of the materials’ (pg 40-41), or perhaps ‘if you’re a prankster, you’ll even find that your incense making skills can be used to create some pretty terrible smells’ – though he does note that no recipes of this type can be found in this book.

Wonderful as it is, I do have a few criticisms. There are a few typos, and it often gets repetitive in parts; indeed, there is even a small section that is repeated in its entirety. While there are a few pictures, step-by-step illustrations to go along with the text, though detailed, would have been appreciated, as not everyone will be able to visualize the steps clearly, especially those who have never made incense before. Appendix B lists numerous suppliers in the United States, with a handful in the UK, but none in Canada. It would be nice if, in future editions, the appendix branched out a bit to include more locals.

Very easy to use, Incense offers step-by-step instructions on how to acquire tools, materials and various incense burners. This is an excellent book for those with an interesting in incense making or who are just starting out, and as Neal notes, even if you don’t end up making your own incense, you’ll have a much better idea of what goes into the process and which things to consider when purchasing off the shelf at your local shop.

Review: Monsters and Magical Sticks, by Steven Heller & Terry Steele

By Psyche | January 4, 2004 | Leave a comment

Monsters and Magical Sticks: Or, There’s No Such Thing As Hypnosis, by Steven Heller, Ph. D. & Terry Steele, introduction by Robert Anton Wilson
New Falcon Publication, 1561840262, 191 (Incl. bibliography), 1987, 2001

Prior to reading Monsters and Magical Sticks, I didn’t know much about hypnosis, it wasn’t a subject that was really ‘on my radar’. Sure, I’d seen it used as a tool for entertainment at a few shows, where a hypnotist stood up in front of a crowd, selected a few individuals and ‘made’ them do silly things. Beyond hearing about it in reference to quitting smoking on the radio, I never really considered that it may have real, practical applications. I simply did not understand the potential therapeutic aspects, nor did I realize that I’d experienced a version of it nearly every day.

Robert Anton Wilson explains in the introduction that he’d been practicing and even teaching it for years without realizing this alternate name. Wilson had studied it under various guises – first as ‘guided meditation’, and later ‘astral projection’ and even ‘Christian Science’. Heller later expands on this, offering this sensible definition of hypnosis:

‘If you consider hypnosis as a specific state that always includes a deep trance, then there’s no such thing as hypnosis. If, however, you use hypnosis as a generic term to encompass anything that alters perception, or changes consciousness, then you can realize that hypnosis is just a word. Within that word are things like meditation, fantasy, guided imagery, deep muscle relaxation – anything that encourages or precipitates a person’s turning inward and having an inner experience that becomes more profound or more important than the outer consensual reality’.

Heller goes on to explain that ‘…we do not respond to reality (whatever reality is). In effect, we respond to and operate upon reality based on our metaphors which become our individual and personal reality’ (pg 45). Further stating that ‘a belief system leads to automating a response that leads to providing the belief system that leads to repetition of the pattern. It is almost like the proverbial snake eating its own tale and complaining about its imminent demise’.

Methods for identifying the patient’s preferred systems of communication (visual, kinesthetic, auditory, and/or a combination of these) are clearly and concisely explained, and various approaches explaining practical applications using the patients own systems to overcome individual problems. Heller writes ‘one of my most important beliefs is that individuals’ belief systems are metaphors; that the individual operates and responds metaphorically to the world! It takes metaphoric approaches to help expand each individual’s choices’ (pg 51-52). Further noting that ‘it makes far more sense to utilize these factors rather than trying to force the individual into responding according to your belief systems, responses, etc. By learning to utilize what the individual already knows, you will be starting from a solid foundation instead of from a morass of quicksand’.

Interspersed throughout the book are numerous case studies, practical examples with detailed explanations and suggestions for constructive exercises the reader can experiment with to make use of the knowledge gained, and real world knowledge. Actually applying the exercises and subtle suggestions the book offers cannot be stressed enough for understanding how easy and how real this is.

Heller successfully uses allegory and metaphor without overstating his point, allowing the reader to think and digest, and indeed, even hypnotises the reader into accepting his gentle suggestions throughout the book. For example, I found myself responding to the proposal to ‘take a small break…and…wonder how the above examples might have important ramifications for the areas of communication, therapy and hypnosis’ (pg 58). Even as I noted my place and set the book down, I remarked to my husband, who was seated next to me, on how easily I responded to the suggestion, despite having no ‘logical’ cause to stop reading at the time (I was stuck on a train with half an hour or more of the ride left to go). This clearly demonstrated to me that this book is a work in hypnosis in its own right.

While combining communication systems, body language, Ericksonian hypnosis, NLP, psychology, and psychotherapy Dr. Heller manages to strip away all the excess jargon and get right to the point with clear language and good humour. While most of the examples work out well, Heller refreshingly acknowledges that he is not faultless, and he has had failures. Though he notes that these are usually due to inattentiveness for whatever reason, rather than failure of the system he has devised.

Extremely well written, clear, concise and humourous, Monsters and Magical Sticks is easily accessible even to the layperson, I highly recommend it to anyone looking for a good introductory book on hypnosis.

Review: Yin Yoga, by Paul Grilley

By Psyche | August 18, 2003 | Leave a comment

Yin Yoga, by Paul Grilley
White Cloud Press, 1883391439, 118 pp. (incl. bibliography.), 2002

Admittedly, my study of yoga has been mostly superficial: I’ve read a few books, but never studied with a professional teacher. However, I do enjoy the few asanas (poses/postures) that I do practice regularly, and was glad to receive an opportunity to expand on them.

Grilley combines Chinese mysticism with Indian philosophy to create yin yoga, incorporating the Modern Meridian Theory of Dr. Hiroshi Motoyama and Dr. James Oschman. This theory postulates that the meridians run through the connective tissue of the body, representing the yin energy, whereas the muscle tissue represents the yang. Included are several colour diagrams of the body and connective tissue to illustrate this point. The main difference between what Grilley calls ‘yang yoga’ and ‘yin yoga’ is that the postures in the latter are held longer, with the muscles relaxed, rather than the straining of ‘yang yoga’.

A large variety of poses are illustrated with photographs and detailed explanations on the benefit and suggestions for the novice and more advanced student, giving a range in the degree of difficulty. Three sample routines are included with various emphasis on spine, hips and legs and then a combination. The sample routines are arranged in such a way that the transition between them feels smooth and natural

Several sitting postures are detailed as well, with brief descriptions of the chakras, and a variety of pranayama and meditation techniques, including Sushumna Purification, chakra and kundalini meditation, Bija or “seed” mantras, etc.

Regarding chakras, Grilley brings up an excellent point often overlooked:

‘When trying to describe where a chakra “is” one is in a dilemma. Common language suggests that they are physically located in the spine but the reader should bear in mind that this is both true and false. A “broken heart” is a real experience that indeed seems cantered in the heart but that is not where the feelings “are”. The chakras have a physical correspondence but they are more than physical. Bear this in mind when reading about “where” a chakra “is”. Don’t be limited by only physical conceptions.’

I found the practical section to be effective and the theory is as sound as any. This is definitely a book I value, and suggest it to anyone looking for a different perspective on yoga.

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