Real Food Films – Real People, Real Life

real food filmsAs a freelance writer, I write about many topics. Occasionally, I’m lucky enough to write about topics that matter to me personally. While that’s true of many of the articles I’ve written for, writing a piece on the Real Food Films Contest has me sitting here with my laptop feeling overwhelmed with gratitude. I get to do work I love writing about topics that deeply matter – to me and to the world at large. These opportunities don’t come around often.

And neither do the amazing stories the Real Food Films Contest 2016 Winners present. I know that sounds like a poor segue, but it’s actually true. I had the pleasure to watch each of the winning videos and hope you’ll take the time to do the same.

The Real Food Films Contest is a collaborative initiative that makes use of film, web-based action, and grassroots campaigning to highlight food and sustainable farming successes stories. Students and organizations alike are encouraged to submit their films. There is a small entry fee and the public votes on the videos, while the final winner decisions are made by a panel of judges.

Drum roll please! This year’s winners:

Grand Prize: Home Flavored, directed by Jamie DeWolf. This gut-wrenching video tells the story of how Coca Cola has become a cultural tradition among Latinos and contributes to an epidemic of obesity and diabetes in their culture, both in America and in their native countries. Featuring a young Latina, the video describes a typical family get together and how it’s centered on Coke – the shiny red label and the glass bottle, rather than focusing on what’s truly important – the family stories and camaraderie. The film leaves you a bit sad for the Latino culture and a lot angry with Coca Cola.

First Runner Up & Best Cinematography: Naturali Tea, directed by Jeremy Seifert. This beautiful and inspiring film tells the story of a tea farmer in Japan who chooses to grow organic green and black tea. The farmer discusses the importance of natural soil, enhanced only by organic means, in producing high quality tea. As tea is the second most commonly ingested liquid (water is number one), removing chemicals from the growing process would have significant global impacts on both soil and public health. I’ve long been aware of this issue and am thrilled that this film is now bringing awareness to others.

Lens on Hunger: Everybody Eats, directed by Justinian Dispenza. Hunger is a growing issue across the U.S. and around the world. Shelters and food banks help, but often people aren’t willing to set aside their pride to ask for help. Or, because they can pay something, don’t want to take free food from those who can’t. An innovative, and increasingly popular solution, to this problem are pay-as-you-can cafes. In this model, as you might expect, people order food and pay what they can. The haves and the have nots dine together without anyone being the wiser and some people pay more for their meal to make up for those who pay less, or not at all. At the register, patrons are asked to make a donation. This film does an amazing job of capturing hunger and this solution with dignity and respect for all involved.

Best Student Film & People’s Choice: Beyond the Seal, directed by Leah Varjacques and Katherine Nagasawa. We’ve all seen the label: Fair Trade Certified. Some of you, like me, probably even know enough about it to know that it helps farmers obtain a fair price for their goods and that it helps them, their families, and communities. It turns out, it means so much more. This film takes us inside the personal story of one banana farmer and what Fair Trade means to him. If you don’t already believe in buying Fair Trade products, you will after you watch this film.

Best Underreported Issue: Saving Sap, directed by Ian Maclellan. As a New Hampshirite, this one is near and dear to my heart. I’ve even been to Parker’s Maple Barn (featured in the beginning of the film.) Using genuine small-town sap producers and insightful wisdom about the effects of climate change on trees, this film opened my eyes to the differences in the types of maple trees, the sap they each produce, and the real danger traditional maple syrup faces as a result of climate change. If you like the sweet gooey liquid on your pancakes or waffles, this film is a must watch.

Best Food Producer Profile: Continue reading

Predicting Mortality: Psychic Ability and Scientific Intuition

psychic abilityEvidence for psychic ability lends itself to many forms, from intuition to precognition to mediumship. Some people even claim to be so intuitive they can determine whether a person is alive or dead by merely glancing at a photograph. The University of California San Diego and the Institute of Noetic Sciences (IONS) decided to test this claim with a research study that analyzed the ability of a dozen people to predict mortality based on photos.

The study found evidence that the group accurately predicted whether the subjects of the photos were alive or dead more than they would have by mere chance. Their brain activity was monitored during the test to help researchers determine when the most activity occurred. The data gathered and the results left the researchers to conclude that this particular psychic ability along with clairvoyance in general were worthy of more investigation.

The photos used were taken from 10 to 75 years before the study, with an even split between living and dead subjects. Researchers used Photoshop to equalize elements like coloring and face size to eliminate things like sepia tones on very old photos and skin colorization that might indicate ill health. Only faces were shown so that clothing, background and other hints at the age and era of the photos could not serve as clues.

People who possess the ability of mediumship channel spirits. Continue reading

Life After Death: What the Science Says

As the saying goes, the only certainties in life are death and taxes. As mortals,we’re all curious about, and to at least some extent, fearful of what happens after death. Religions across the ages have attempted to answer the question “Is there life after death?” with their own concepts ranging from reincarnation to heaven, hell and purgatory. Even religions like Judaism, one that does not have a specific dogma regarding what happens after death, acknowledge the existence of a soul and allow for the idea that “something” happens to it after our physical bodies pass. Science may now have an explanation that is both comforting and possibly after death

Quantum physicists theorize the existence of what less scientific people call a soul. Dr. Stuart Hameroff and Sir Roger Penrose theorize that consciousness resides in microtubules of the brain. They believe that our experience of being alive is a result of quantum gravity effects on these microtubules. Thus, when the physical brain dies, the information stored within these microtubules is released but as matter cannot be created or destroyed it is redistributed into the universe. This they believe is the soul and the equivalent of life after death.

If a patient is revived the information returns to the microtubules and the physical body continues, possibly with some additional spiritual knowledge. This theory seems to explain, without relying upon any religious or spiritual dogma, the experiences described as “near death,” astral projections and even reincarnation. It accounts for all religious and spiritual explanations for what happens after death without using religion to prove it.

Studying near death experiences to seek proof of the accounts told by patients is fraught with medical ethics and morality challenges. To date the only studies have occurred after a person has been revived and depend upon their anecdotal accounts. Continue reading

Handling Mother’s Day When Mom is a Narcissist

Contact, no contact or just a card when mom is a narcissist?

For many people Mother’s Day is a time to celebrate the woman who bore us, raised us, kissed our booboos and showed us unconditional love. But what if you’ve got a mother who’s not the Disney idea of the perfect mom? Perhaps you have a mother who has made every situation about her – a mom who puts you first only when it’s convenient.  What do you do about Mother’s Day when mom is a narcissist?

mom is a narcissist

Field of beautiful white narcissuses

Calling or Visiting Mom on Mother’s Day

Trying to decide what to do on Mother’s Day can be stressful. How do you decide what’s best for your sanity without being drowned in guilt? The decision is up to you, but be prepared for likely emotional pain either way. Author Karyl McBride, a therapist and expert on narcissistic mothers and daughters, has even written that Mother’s Day can be a “post-traumatic stress trigger.”  Now that my mother has passed away I’m not ashamed to say that I am looking forward to a lovely, restful day without any of these dilemmas.

Unless you have a partner or close friend who really understands that mom is a narcissist, asking others what to do can provoke feelings of shame, at least they did for me.  Sometimes I used a checklist of pros and cons to try and rationalize the right thing to do – which is never very clear when mom is a narcissist.

Trying to decide whether to visit or call mom this coming Sunday? Maybe this list will help:

  • How guilty do you feel when you don’t see your mom on Mother’s Day? If the guilt factor is still high, this will be a huge point on the pro list for contact. I know for me, especially when my mom was dying of cancer, I had to see her.
  • If your mom’s pleasure is important to you – and this is different for everyone and probably depends on the extent to which mom is a narcissist,remember it’s a spectrum – then visiting is a pro also.
  • Are you good at protecting yourself and staying away from arguments or new resentments? I became very good at shielding myself energetically and not expecting anything from my mom. For that reason, visits got easier as the years went on. A Mother’s Day call or brunch at her favorite restaurant can be a pro, if you want to practice this. But it’s a BIG con if you really feel fragile, or that interaction is fraught with peril in terms of new battles.
  • Have you already set boundaries between you and mom? If not, Mother’s Day is probably not a great time to begin no or low contact. Conversely, if you’ve got a routine established that is comfortable for you (and that she may have grudgingly accepted) don’t let a guilt flare-up change your boundaries now.
  • Finally, was discontinuing contact or distancing yourself hard to do? If so, a visit can restart a painful separation process and that would be a big negative.

Remember, there is always room in between. Maybe you could email mom or send a pretty card. My sister used to send flowers every Mother’s Day and on birthdays, and I always thought that was smart. Lower contact options may offer the necessary internal compromise to acknowledge your mother while still keeping your mental health boundaries in place.

No matter what you decide, be confident in your choice and don’t look back. Remember that when mom is a narcissist, there may always be payback for not doing what she wants.  The best way to deal with your narcissistic mother is to be confident in yourself, remain centered and to ignore the drama if you can.

I understand the struggle you may be feeling, as I went through it for many years. Having these issues means that you’re a good person, not a bad daughter. And if you’re a mother now and  determined to break the cycle of abuse, Happy Mother’s Day!  You are my hero.



Realigning the Body’s Natural Vibrations with Sound Therapy

sound therapy
As energy therapists and/or Reiki practitioners, we trust that the human energy field vibrates at different frequencies depending on health, mood, etc. We also trust that each chakra vibrates at its own optimal frequency. A study by the late Swiss doctor Hans Jenny, M.D. proves that sound waves create invisible energy fields. Dr. John Beaulieu uses Dr. Jenny’s study to optimize tuning forks and other sound healing tools for energy healing via sound therapy.

Since we can now identify that chakras and the human body have their own vibrations, it’s also now possible to re-tune them, just like a piano. By using tuning forks, singing bowls, didgeridoo, or other tonal vibration methods, we can reset our body’s vibrations to optimal health. Further, when we encounter other beings, our vibrations interact with theirs and determine our immediate response to them. That immediate feeling of connection/attraction or repulsion comes, at least in part, as a vibrational response which our brains interpret as desire or lack thereof.

Although sound therapy takes place on a physical level, it affects us physically, mentally, spiritually, and emotionally. Depending on the areas we’re seeking to heal, specific notes can be more or less beneficial. For example, someone with a sore throat or speech issues might focus on using G tones.

An up-and-coming sound therapy tool is the aboriginal didgeridoo. Joseph Carringer explains that the didgeridoo produces low tones that overlap with the frequency created by human brain waves. It operates on the same principle as ultra-sound therapy. Physical effects of didgeridoo therapy include pain reduction and accelerated healing. Energetic effects of didgeridoo therapy have been reported to be similar to Five Elements Acupuncture, with equally as long lasting effects. Lastly, didgeridoo therapy aides in meditation, which reconnects us to our own healing power.

Singing bowls have been around a long time and remain one of the most popular sound healing tools available. According to Rainbow Vibrations sound healing works even for the deaf and hearing impaired because they can still feel the vibrations. They cite work by Deepak Chopra indicating that the sound and vibration of singing bowls is processd by the body’s cells as a pain reducing opioid. In addition to pain reduction benefits, singing bowls are calming and are believed to clear away negative thought patterns and unblock energy.

Tuning Forks work in a similar fashion as singing bowls, but can be held close to or on various parts of the body such as those that correspond to chakras or meridians. Gongs and handheld cymbals are other commonly used sound healing tools that work in a similar fashion to singing bowls.

Which sound healing tools do you prefer?

top coloring booksSarah Woodard is a freelance writer based in Southern New Hampshire. She enjoys bringing stories, issues and topics to live with words and pictures. In addition to writing, Sarah is a beekeeper, Reiki Master Teacher and black belt in Muay Thai Kickboxing. In her free time, Sarah enjoys spending time with her boyfriend and playing with their four cats. 

Reiki Treatments Lower Blood Pressure

In today’s high-stress, high-intensity society, more and more people are being diagnosed with high blood pressure. We all know high blood pressure can lead to other serious health problems such as heart attack and stroke, but other than prescription drugs and lifestyle changes can anything else be done to lower blood pressure and prevent such devastating occurrences?

It turns out that healing touch therapies such as Reiki are quite effective in reducing blood pressure and other factors that lead to heart attack and stroke. A study conducted by the University of Brazil in Sao Paulo looked at the effects of Reiki and similar alternatives on hypertension. The researchers used a double-blind study to determine that Reiki does have a positive effect on reducing blood pressure. They also found the effects were immediate and were able to be repeated with additional sessions.

Although the researchers note that new methodologies and equipment are needed to fully measure the effects of energy healing methods such as Reiki, they’re of the opinion that Reiki lowers blood pressure by balancing the energy in the “vital bodies” also known as chakras and meridians. Vital body is term most associated with Greek medicine, but the concept translates well here.

An article published for Reiki practitioners discusses the benefits of Reiki and energy healing as an adjunct and/or natural alternative to modern blood pressure treatments. Since energy work and Reiki treatments bring overall balance to the body and its systems, lower blood pressure and increased immunity are expected outcomes. The science behind Reiki is continuing to be discovered, but empirical studies who results time after time.

Wentworth Douglas Hospital in Dover, New Hampshire conducted a study of patients requesting Reiki for stress or pain related concerns. They relied on patient input rating their pain or stress levels pre- and post- Reiki treatment.   Based upon the data they collected 61% of patients reported a significant reduction in stress and 35% reported a reduction in pain. Both stress and pain are known to increase blood pressure, so one can extrapolate that those same patients lowered their risk for hypertension, heart attack, and stroke. It’s important to note that 17% of patients who provided pre-Reiki treatment scores fell asleep during the treatment session and were not woken up to provide post-treatment data.

With studies like these becoming increasingly prevalent and all of them showing the benefits of healing touch and Reiki therapies, it’s becoming impossible to brush such treatments aside as being “new age” or metaphysical. Instead, they’re proving to be deeply rooted in science and body physiology in ways we’re only beginning to understand. Ways in which our ancestors perhaps innately understood, but which we’re now seeking to prove and quantify.

top coloring booksSarah Woodard is a freelance writer based in Southern New Hampshire. She enjoys bringing stories, issues and topics to live with words and pictures. In addition to writing, Sarah is a beekeeper, Reiki Master Teacher and black belt in Muay Thai Kickboxing. In her free time, Sarah enjoys spending time with her boyfriend and playing with their four cats. 

How Sound Therapy Complements Healing

sound therapy
An increasing number of hospitals are turning to music and sound therapy as adjunct to medicinal treatments. Patients report feeling more at ease and less stressed in the harshness of the hospital environment when there’s musical accompaniment. Doctors have long listened to music while performing surgery to help them perform at optimal levels, so it’s no surprise that music helps their patients achieve optimal healing.

According to Rainbow Hospice, music therapy is beneficial for both the patient and their families. In a hospice setting, music has been shown to ease pain and suffering, including physical symptoms such as shortness of breath. Sound therapy has also been shown to improve emotional well-being by reducing feelings of depression, anxiety, fear, loneliness, and confusion. For patients nearing the end of their life, music often enables them to review their lives and discover meaning in the dying process.

For the family of the person in hospice or palliative care, music therapy provides emotional support, an opportunity to connect and converse with their ill or dying loved one, and an opportunity to create some final wonderful memories.

Just as healing touch therapies like Reiki are performed by trained professionals, so too is music or sound therapy. In a typical music therapy session, participants do more than listen to music – they create it. Using instruments, voices, or any other noise makers, patients joyfully make noise and help themselves heal. As a recent Miami Herald article explains, music therapy combines musicianship with a clinical understanding of how the human brain works.

Music therapy faces a similar challenge to energy therapies – they’re both hard to study scientifically. For some hospitals and healthcare workers, lack of data surrounding these alternative therapies makes them reluctant to implement them as part of their care practices. Patients who’ve received these therapies, their families, and the practitioners, however, see a lot of value.

A WebMD article highlights Beth Israel’s unconventional approach and the positive effect it has on patients. Continue reading

I Know Dogs Go to Heaven

dogs go to heaven

Me and Cos.

If you’re reading this, then you’ve probably had that special bond with a dog or another pet.  For me that was Cosmo, my comfort dog who passed away one year ago today.  This is my story about how on April 17, 2015 the universe gave me proof that dogs go to heaven.

Cosmo was a lab/husky mix that was part of a litter tossed on a highway years ago. He was a sick, badly behaved oversized puppy who got into trouble on a constant basis,  but he loved me and I loved him. Whenever times were tough, he was there for me with a tail that wagged so hard the vets were concerned he would get an actual injury known as “happy tail syndrome.” We ran together, skied together and he was the leader of my pack of three dogs.In 2014  I was a caretaker for my mother, who was losing her battle with lung cancer. That summer I also got breast cancer and had to endure surgery and preventative radiation. Unfortunately, late in 2014 Cosmo also got cancer.

Although I recovered, my mother died in early January of 2015 and three months later Cosmo was failing. None of the treatments had worked, he had stopped eating and the vet and I knew it was time. Still, my fragile emotional and physical state made what is normally an excruciatingly hard task literally torture.  I prayed hard that morning, asking for something profound to happen to help me with what seemed like an impossible trip. After one last little walk around the block, Cosmo and I got in the car and headed for the vet. I listened to classicalMPR, trying to sooth my nerves. Even on my arrival, I was unable to tell the receptionist why we were there. I knew I had to stay calm for Cosmo but I thought there was a good chance I would lose control of my emotions. I so wanted to be for my dog who had done so much for me, but again I felt so frail.

As we waited for the vet to come into the little room, all of a sudden my phone started blowing up with text messages. Little did I know my best friend had sent out a mass message to many of our friends, asking them to pray for me at the appointment time. Their messages were full of support and love as one by one they filled up my phone screen. I turned off my phone, as it was enough to know that all these people were thinking of us. I suddenly had the strength I needed.  Cosmo snuggled up in my lap and the vet came back to ask if I was ready. I nodded and she gave him both injections.

Dogs go to heaven


As Cosmo took his last breath, immediately in my mind’s eye I saw him well and happy once again, and literally nose to nose with my old dog Lucca. She was ancient when Cos was a puppy, but she raised him that first year before she passed.   I could see them now, both in the classic play bow and tails wagging wildly in the air. I had forgotten how much they loved each other.

But beautiful as this scene was, and incredibly comforting when I think of it now, this was not my profound moment. That moment was still to come.

I signed all the papers and left the vet without my darling Cosmo. As I slowly drove out of the parking lot and headed home the classical music station was still playing, and I thought about how beautiful both the weather and the music seemed that morning.  I was about halfway home when suddenly it stopped, mid-song.

A joyous young voice came out of the speakers and said “I love playing with Lucca.”

And then the music continued. I had to pull over and take a giant breath. I almost couldn’t believe my ears but it had been clear and unmistakable. Someone had actually said “I love playing with Lucca.”

After I got my senses together, I drove home.  I pulled up the classicalMPR playlist for that day and learned the music I had heard was from Trio Tesoro, a musical group made up of three high school students  – Sarrah Bushara, Cole Thompson…and Luca Tallarini. Although I never found that particular audio clip I was able to find the segment.

This was the profound moment I had asked for, from a universe that only knows how to say yes. I’ve remembered this moment often, and it seems particularly poignant today.  I would like to thank MPR and Trio Tesoro for being a part of this incredible proof that dogs go to heaven.  And thank you to my friend Mary and all my friends who sent me such loving messages  that day. I’m sure your prayers helped this message make its way to me so quickly.

The Power of Mandalas

Meditation doesn’t have to be about sitting quietly in the lotus position focusing on breathing. Meditation is about calming inner thoughts and easing the spirit. In a prior post, we looked at the benefits of coloring as a meditative practice. Mandalas are powerful circles currently available in a variety of coloring books, but they’ve been around much longer.mandalas

Mandala means “sacred circle” in Sanskrit. Mandalas are also used by Tibetan Buddhist Monks, some Native American Tribes, and famed psychologist Carl Jung to meditate and bring about emotional and spiritual healing. A study by the University of New Hampshire discusses the power and use of mandalas in modern life. Personally, I find mandalas quite relaxing and find they bring about insights and personal growth.

Coloring mandalas as part of a meditative practice enables people to tap into inner creativity without the need for artistic skill. Circles symbolize wholeness, continuity, unity, and connection. As we color them, our subconscious taps into the collective unconscious while at the same time bringing our focus inward.

Mandalas are for everyone. All ages, races, and genders can achieve benefits by coloring mandalas. There is no right or wrong way to color them and it can be done at the artist’s own pace. For adults, it brings out the child in them. For children, it’s a fun activity they already enjoy that will also help them to feel calm. As an activity, it can be done alone or in groups and will activate inner genius in both settings. As a meditative practice, solo is preferred unless the entire group is using them as a meditative adjunct.

When I add mandalas to my meditation practice I find myself coming up with solutions to problems I didn’t think I could solve; I find myself more at peace and more secure with myself and my place in the world. Coloring mandalas helps release my natural anxiety and enables me to heal from past traumas. They’re not a solution by themselves, but they’re an excellent addition to other healing techniques.

Some of my favorite mandala coloring books:

Whether you’re just beginning your meditation journey or looking to add a new dynamic to an existing mediation practice, coloring mandalas can be a beneficial technique. Find our top recommended coloring books for stress relief here.

The same benefits can be derived from drawing your own mandalas. If you’re not a skilled artist, there are several websites available to help you draw them and provide a printable product. Color mandala and the mandala maker are two of these.

Sarah WoodardSarah Woodard is a freelance writer based in Southern New Hampshire. She enjoys bringing stories, issues and topics to live with words and pictures. In addition to writing, Sarah is a beekeeper, Reiki Master Teacher and black belt in Muay Thai Kickboxing. In her free time, Sarah enjoys spending time with her boyfriend and playing with their four cats. 

How the Bee Crisis Impacts Humanity

bee-839761__180According to a 2015 study, beekeepers have reported losing more than 40 percent of their honey bee colonies over the last year. Bees are responsible for pollinating 70 out of the top 100 human food crops, which supply nearly 90% of the overall food supply. Without bees, the food we eat would not longer flourish. Contrary to popular belief, the bee crisis doesn’t just impact plant food. Our agriculture industry feeds plants to livestock. If bees die off, both plant eaters and meat eaters will suffer from a lack of food.

Monsanto and other large food companies want consumers to believe that the solution lies in GMO (genetically modified organisms) crops.  But GMO’s are actually adding to the problem. Pesticides made by these companies contribute to the bee crisis, as bees die in massive numbers.

In addition to pollinating crops, bees connect humans with nature. Most people feel strongly about bees either positively or negatively. Very few people have no reaction when they think a bee is buzzing around. They either get frightened or interested. For those who are intrigued, bees are a connection to nature. Bees are highly intelligent insects and scientists dedicated to studying them have figured out their language and are largely able to interpret their waggle dance.

If the bee crisis continues and we continue losing bees, we lose more than a key pollinator. We lose an intelligent insect who connects us to nature. Bees live and work in harmony in nature. By observing them, we can learn how to do that ourselves. Continue reading