Travel, Estrogen, Greed, Desire and the Urge to Consume

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    The Gift of Travel: Inspiring Stories from Around the World, by Larry Habegger, James O’Reilly, Sean O’Reilly (Travelers’ Tales, San Francisco, CA, 2004) $14.95

    "There are moments when a sudden, unexpected connection is made somewhere in the world, powerful and undeniable. When the energy is exactly right, it doesn’t seem to matter where you are. Things just happen as they should." The gifts of travel come in packages as unique as the receiver and as unpredictable as the people and events of each new destination. The only requirement for the receipt of these gifts is the ability to surrender completely into the moment, into the culture, into the experience. The 31 moving stories in The Gift of Travel exemplify a variety of perspectives and adventures that are as diverse as the destinations, which range from the other side of the world to 15 miles down the beach. These tales secure your companion seat on the journey of a blind American chasing his lost love through India, a picnic on the plains of Tibet, a waltz in a bare Chinese hut fulfilling an old woman’s childhood fantasies. Reawakening you to the beauty and multiplicity of life, these stories reflect the very best moments of travel: opening into the flow of new experiences, speaking without words, facing the greatest fears that you never knew you had, learning to trust strangers, removing boundaries that are no longer required by another culture, and reminding us that for lovers, distance does not exist.

    The Estrogen Alternative: A Guide to Natural Hormonal Balance, by Raquel Martin and Judi Gersung, DC (Healing Arts Press, Rochester, VT, 2005) $16.95

    In Great Britain, "[natural] progesterone treatment for PMS is so accepted that in three different murder trials, women were sentenced to take progesterone. Their defense was that they had committed violent crimes because they were pre-menstrual!" Exposing the myths and the misinformation concerning estrogen deficiency from which many medical practitioners make decisions, The Estrogen Alternative is not just for women searching for relief from menopausal systems but for women of all ages seeking optimal health. Covering the gamut of health issues from depression and bone density to childbirth and menopause, the text investigates the real issue of estrogen dominance and the benefits of natural progesterone therapy. Going beyond reporting the findings of studies (which they do with extensive footnoting), Raquel Martin and Judi Gerstung investigate the sources and details of the studies. Attacking the myths of estrogen, Martin and Gerstung quote the work of Dr. Ray Peat, who debunks the advertising of estrogen as a "youth drug" by saying that "women will puff up with water and fat under the influence of estrogen, and wrinkles will naturally be smoothed out, but the skin itself is actually losing its elasticity faster when estrogen is used." They go on to note that their full scale investigation into the "sea of environmental estrogen in which we find ourselves" is not just for women by citing an ex-Marine who testified that his wife’s progesterone cream is the only therapy keeping his prostate cancer in remission. Through their thought-provoking and accessible text, Martin and Gerstung successfully assist women in making informed health decisions.

    Hooked: Buddhist Writings on Greed, Desire, and the Urge to Consume, edited by Stephanie Kaza (Shambhala, Boston, MA, 2005) $16.95

    In a nation with twice as many shopping malls as high schools, curbing the desire to consume – whether it be clothing, entertainment, food or even people – proves nearly impossible. Buddhism, with its analysis of greed, delusion and attachment, offers us an anecdote to the effects of rampant consumerism. But to what extent are we simply transferring consumerist thinking into spirituality, asks essayist Thubten Chodron. Are we not just becoming spiritual consumers, shopping around for the best teacher, one who must be entertaining and will never ask us to repeat the same lesson or let us get bored? To stay alive, we humans must consume. The question of how to navigate the choices to best mitigate the impact of our consumption is the subject of Hooked. In its 17 essays from authors such as Pema Chodron and Norman Fischer, editor Stephanie Kaza presents an analysis of consumerism from a Buddhist perspective and offers Buddhist practice and principles as a means of relief. It turns out, however, that the precise relationship between Buddhism and consumption, globalization and environmentalism that we in the West take for granted seems to be determined more by culture than by philosophy. Sumi Loundon, in her essay "Young Buddhists in Shopping Shangri-la," points out that middle and upper class Buddhists in both the East and West actively use Buddhism to assuage the grip of consumerism on their lives. However, poorer Asians do not experience an incompatibility between Buddhism and materialism and actively seek to establish the material stability of being middle-class. Exploring the depth to which consumption is ingrained in our society, as well as in the formation of our individual identities, the essays in this text may prove challenging in their requirement to face the core issues of desire and craving. But the benefit to ourselves and the planet of releasing the grip of consumption is well worth the journey.

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