Hope, Iridology and the Japanese Art of Self-reflection

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    Hope, Human and Wild: True Stories of Living Lightly on the Earth, by Bill McKibben (Milkweed Editions, 2007) $15.
    In the face of global warming and rapidly increasing world poverty, engineers offer token solutions like solar cars and windmills that maintain both our comfort and economic growth rate. Instead, Bill McKibben advocates for a sustainable future by becoming a "civilization living closer to the limits set by its place." But can we as Westerners addicted to our convenience, variety and spacious, isolated houses really change? Won’t change plummet us into poverty and ignorance? McKibben searched the globe and returned with proof that change does not necessarily mean destruction and hardship, instead it simply means different. Far beyond the American environmental "successes" of increased recycling and declining smoking rates, McKibben details two communities that have completely shifted their psychology (their beliefs about their society and about what is possible) and found that they lead better lives with less "stuff." In just 75 years Kerla, India, has transformed from a "caste-ridden colonial outpost" to boasting 100 percent literacy and vaccination rate, as well as more women than men who are in college. Curitiba, Brazil, altered its plans to revitalize by building superhighways and now boasts the world’s best bus system (which actually turns a profit), and radical solutions to a number of municipal problems such as a flock of municipal sheep that keep the grass trimmed in the city’s plethora of parks. Weaving together social history, city planning, and demographic analysis with the intrigue of a travel journal, McKibben presents the realistic possibility of a world where "growth" is a curse word and hope dominates fear in both the human and natural world.

    Practical Iridology: Using Your Eyes to Pinpoint Your Health Risks and Your Particular Path to Wellbeing, by Peter Jackson-Main (Carroll and Brown Publishers, 2004) $22.95.
    The eyes are the window to the soul, but did you know that they are also a window into your physical health? Through examining the colored portion of the eyes, iridology offers an effective means to prevent and treat disease. Although your irides display 10 times more uniqueness than your fingerprints when used for security identification, numerous symptoms and diseases present consistent patterns in the iris. Using a mirror and flashlight, inspect your irides for color and shape imbalances. Brown spots located anywhere in the iris may indicate issues with the liver or colon, while orange spots may speak of pancreatic problems. Overall pigmentation also reveals a great deal about a person’s health. Blue-eyed children suffer from a higher rate of ear infections and sore throats than other children and therefore should avoid mucous-forming foods, whereas people with brown eyes experience a higher tendency toward diabetes and therefore should avoid sugar. Those with the mixed eye color of green or hazel often endure digestive problems and benefit from food combining. After comparing your eyes to the large, brilliantly colored photographs of irides in Practical Iridology, you may fear that you are falling apart. Please remember, however, that the assessment of the iris remains but one piece of the puzzle, and it must be combined with your symptoms (if any), lifestyle and medical history. If you do find problems that are substantiated by your symptoms, luckily Practical Iridology details methods to restore your health and balance through strengthening and detoxifying your system.

    Naikan: Gratitude, Grace and the Japanese Art of Self-Reflection, Vol. 1, by Gregg Krech (Stone Bridge Press, 2002), $14.95.
    By exposing what was once hidden, the practice of Naikan widens the appearance of the landscape, making the view extraordinary. This deceptively simple structure for self-reflection brings to light what is all around you. It reveals the service you have received from others, whether it be the windows that keep the cold out or the post person who delivers the mail. It unveils the service you have given to others, whether it be watering the houseplants or making a friend a cup of tea. It also lays open the troubles you have caused others by leaving phone calls unreturned or frightening a squirrel when driving. Suddenly the topography of life takes on a whole new shape. Used in Japan at dozens of retreat centers, as well as for a variety of uses from mental health counseling to enhancing business practices, Naikan is based on three questions that provide the foundation for examining your life, your actions and your relationships. Instead of using reflection to revisit how you have been hurt and mistreated by others, as is often the case in Western mental health practices, Naikan asks you to focus on how you have been cared for and supported. The result is an enhanced appreciation of life. What part did you play in the incredibly complex process that allows a pizza to be delivered to your home? From the farmer who grew the wheat to the manufacturer of the ovens, to the delivery person who risked her life in traffic to bring warm food to your door, did you adequately express your gratitude for their services? Daily practice of Nailkan, whether though a nightly reflection, journaling or active expression of gratitude, will show you the true role you play in your own life and the wealth of support that you receive from others.

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