Posts tagged #Winter 2016 Columns

Music & Audio Reviews

By Sarah Newland

Sevati cd
By Mirabai Ceiba

Exploring new territory on this lovely recording, Sevati includes a traditional Sikh prayer, Sanksrit mantras, Spanish and Native American songs, and a Khalil Gibran poem. The duo’s signature blend of passionate male and female vocals is richly interwoven with harp and a beautiful variety of other sounds providing the backdrop to a powerful and meaningful listening experience.


Music for Massage cd
By Various Malimba Wellness Artists

Dive into deep relaxation as this music dissolves stress and encourages calm. Featured artists include Shastro, Nadama, Raphael,and Shakya. Each artist shines individually, yet contributes to a cohesive whole in this beautifully produced recording.

Vintage Latino cd
By Putumayo World Music

Experience the tropical nightclubs of Latin America in the 1950s with this nostalgic collection of classic boleros, cha cha cha’s, and more. Includes artists from Cuba, Argentina, Uruguay, Puerto Rico, Venezuela, and Colombia.


Shaman Earth Dance cd
By Nanda Re

Using drums, rattles, didgeridoo, bells, cymbals, mixed choir vocal mantras from around the world, string instruments, and synthesizer, Nanda Re presents astounding compositions carrying flavors of many cultures. This music connects one to the power of the Earth through a sound journey that is at times dynamic and energizing, and also soft and introspective. Music to dance, travel, and dream.


Awake dvd
The Life of Yogananda

This is an unconventional biography about the Hindu swami who brought yoga and meditation to the West in the 1920s. Yogananda authored the spiritual classic Autobiography of a Yogi – a best-selling go-to book for seekers, philosophers, and yoga enthusiasts today. He made Vedic teachings accessible to a modern audience. Filmed over three years in 30 countries around the planet, this documentary examines the world of yoga, modern and ancient, east and west, and explores why millions have turned their attention inwards, bucking the limitations of the material world in pursuit of self-realization.



Posted on December 31, 2015 .

What’s New in the Community

By Lynda Gronlund

This ongoing column features upcoming events within Ann Arbor/Washtenaw County and surrounding areas’ Body/Mind/Spirit communities, new (during the past year or two) practitioners and holistic businesses, new books written by local/regional authors, new classes, as well as new offerings by established practitioners and holistic businesses.

Local doulas Cynthia Gabriel and Catherine Fischer have started a new Mother Baby group in Ann Arbor for new and expectant moms. The group meets at the Great Oak Cohousing Common House on Little Lake Drive, and starting in January, will meet on Mondays from 10 to 11:30 a.m. Gabriel and Fischer facilitate discussions on a different topic each week: birth stories, the unexpected emotions of motherhood, sex after having a baby, postpartum bodies, sleep, infant feeding, negotiating changed relationships, and building a support system. The goal of the group is to provide an opportunity for new mothers to make friends and share understanding and support to enhance their confidence and help them enjoy parenting more. The group is ongoing and women may join at any time.

Noting that she attended several Mother Baby groups when she was a new mom in New York City, Gabriel said that there are other similar groups in the area, but, she said, “the more, the merrier.” Both women have extensive backgrounds. Gabriel has written a book about natural hospital birth and has studied birth not only in the United States but also in Russia, Canada, and Brazil. Fischer spent years as a postpartum doula before also becoming a birth doula; she also helps moms with breastfeeding. Both have years of experience as support-group leaders, doulas, educators, and mothers.

Gabriel emphasized that while there are lots of competing philosophies about best parenting practices, she and Fischer believe in supporting what works for the individual mother and child, not preaching particular parenting choices. “There are as many different ways to parent as there are parents,” she said, and added that this is a “non-judgement group.”

The cost for participating in the group is $10 to drop in, or $56 for 8 meetings. There is a Facebook group where participants can confirm the group meetings and topics for each week at Catherine Fischer can be reached at or (734) 395-5244. Cynthia Gabriel can be reached at The Great Oak Cohousing Common House is located at 500 Little Lake Drive, Ann Arbor, MI 48103.

Sahaja Yoga Meditation is a meditation technique and movement founded by Shri Mataji Nirmala Devi, who taught that meditation should be taught free of charge, and “knowledge should be paid forward, not back.” Vic Divecha, a local teacher of the technique, recently introduced a “digital badge”-based learning program, which allows learners to “personalize their learning and get recognition for their rich learning experiences outside the confines of the classroom walls.” He described the digital badges as an alternative to certificates. “So much in meditation happens spontaneously, in one-on-one and informal settings,” he said, and with the digital badges, learners can earn them by demonstrating knowledge they learned from peers, instructors, online resources, or the community. The badges can be displayed on a website or just used privately for a student to track his or her own progress. Divecha said that the badges can help clarify where a student is and what to work on next, especially for “busy working professionals who don’t always have the bandwidth to think, ‘Where am I and what’s next?’” He said that the badges have created excitement for learners who are eager to earn their next badge.

Information about free local Sahaja Yoga Meditation meetings is available at and at Vic Divecha can be reached by email at

A2GetFit is a women-only fitness studio offering group fitness classes and one-on-one training sessions. The studio is located in personal trainer Debra Clark’s home. Last year, Clark added a comprehensive set of nutrition services to the studio’s options, headed up by nutritionist Kelly Sager.

The TakeDown Challenge is a 28-day kickstart program that A2GetFit offers three times per year — in January, May, and September. Participants receive a food journal, menus, recipes, and shopping lists. “Everything is laid out for you,” said Clark, including what to eat, how to make the recipes, and when to eat. Weekly weigh-ins and food journal checks help keep everyone on track. The women receive support in person and online, not only from Clark and Sager, but from each other. “It’s very community-oriented,” said Clark.

Results so far have been consistently positive. The average weight loss for one 28-day challenge has been 8 to 13 pounds, and women who have done multiple challenges have lost 35, 50, and, for one woman, over 70 pounds.

A second program, the TakeDown Lifestyle, is an eight-week personalized program which goes more in-depth. “At the end of the eight weeks, you’re going to know how to eat for the rest of your life,” said Clark. This program is available year-round. Clients meet one-on-one with Sager 6 times for support, and to be accountable for their lifestyle modification. They receive a binder full of information, a food diary, recipes and instructions, and continual email support.

Clark and Sager also offer a corporate wellness program they can tailor to help groups of people improve their eating habits.

The studio has partnered with Wildtree Organics, a company that offers all natural, peanut-free cooking products (like spices, flavor-infused oils, and more) with no dyes, fillers, MSG, GMOs, or preservatives. A2GetFit offers tastings and workshops with Wildtree products, where clients can assemble complete meals from meat, fish, poultry, spices, and vegetables, and then store the meals in a freezer bag to take home, freeze, and eat at any time.

They have also partnered with Local Grown Harvest, a farm in Milan, Michigan, to offer fresh produce, meat, and eggs grown without pesticides, growth hormones, or GMOs. The farm can offer produce year-round because of its indoor aquaponics system, which fertilizes plants with the waste from organically-fed koi fish, and hydrates the plants with the water the koi swim in. Local Grown Harvest delivers to A2GetFit weekly, and women can pick up their orders when they come in for their group workouts or personal training sessions.

Clark explained that A2GetFit’s “all-in-one” approach to fitness and nutrition is unique to the area, and has helped her clients achieve great results.

A2GetFit is online at Debra Clark can be reached by email at or by phone at (734) 395-0771.

The Nutritional Healing Center of Ann Arbor has several pieces of news. First, founder Dr. Darren Schmidt, D.C., has designed a new line of nutrition bars called Good Fat Bars. Based on the idea that American diets are deficient in good, healthy fats (such as fish oil, extra virgin olive oil, and avocados) while being overloaded with sugar, Good Fat Bars meet a need in the nutrition bar industry that has not been recognized, Dr. Schmidt said. “Even the protein bars are full of sugar,” he said, and there are no bars on the market that provide significant amounts of healthy fats. Good Fat Bars provide 9 grams of good fat, 4 grams of protein, and just 3 grams of carbohydrates. The bars contain no sugar and are flavored with essential oils. They are available in cinnamon, cocoa-almond, and lemon-ginger-turmeric flavors. Dr. Schmidt said that healthy fats help improve long-term endurance, calmness, and physical strength, and nourish our body systems and tissues: hormonal systems, the brain and nervous system, breast tissues, eyes, and cell membranes. Good Fat Bars keep blood sugar stable and keep the appetite down for hours. Recently, Dr. Schmidt said he went over 8 hours eating 3 bars (just over 300 calories) and a slice of pizza and did not feel hungry or low on energy. The Good Fat Bars are currently available at the Nutritional Healing Center and will soon be available on Amazon and in stores. Dr. Schmidt would soon like to be able to distribute the bars nationally.

NHCAA is also welcoming a new team member, registered dietician Nick Pomante, who works with both corporate wellness programs and individual clients for the Center. Dr. Schmidt said he hired Pomante because he is “exceptional at what he does,” and because he takes a customized approach to nutrition rather than pushing a one-size-fits-all program. Pomante recently graduated from Eastern Michigan University. He said that he helps people with the “how” part of improving their diets.

Finally, NHCAA received three awards and was a runner-up for a fourth in 2015. The Center was named Best Alternative Health Care in Washtenaw County in Current Magazine’s Reader’s Choice Awards. Dr. Joel Vickers won the Ann Arbor Family Favorites Award for Best Chiropractor, and the Center was named a runner-up for Best Allergist in the same contest. Dr. Schmidt’s chiropractic practice has also been awarded as a top practice by

The Nutritional Healing Center of Ann Arbor is located at 3610 West Liberty Road, Ann Arbor, MI 48103. The website is The Center can be reached by phone at (734)302-7575 or by email at

Sara Vos is a writer, editor, and coach who, through launching Vos Holistic Services, L.L.C., is shifting her professional focus to helping holistic and spiritual entrepreneurs grow their businesses, create content, and reach more people. Working as a writer and editor for the last ten years, Vos had previously focused on academia, but recognized a need for what she does in the holistic and spiritual community. For the past nine months she has shifted to working with local people and businesses which, she said, are the “change-makers.” In addition to blogging, writing copy, and editing, Vos has recently started offering social media management and publicity and event planning for practitioners. She described her approach as “collaborative,” and also talked about creating and improving connections between practitioners to “create a feedback loop” of growth. To that end, Vos is also co-producing a weekly networking and healing meeting in Plymouth with life coach Barbra White, owner of Accepted As I Am Center. Beginning January 6, Vos and White will host the meeting every Wednesday at 7 p.m. for “healers and leaders” in the community to connect and “create a powerful vortex of healing.”

Sara Vos is online at She can be reached by phone at (470) 777-2065 or by email at

Sun Shen School of Spiritual Development recently moved from downtown to a new location near Trader Joe’s. Members of the school are completing the buildout of the new school, which is slated to be 100 percent complete by January. Since the space is over three times larger than the previous school, Sun Shen has been able to expand its offerings. For the first time, Sun Shen’s founder, Master Sang Kim, is teaching the entire Sun Shen system of self-healing and energy cultivation, which he inherited from his teacher, Master Gabriel Chin. This is a high-intensity, in-depth class with five hours of class time each week. Students learn healing and energy cultivation, Tai Chi, physical manipulation, and counseling to resolve physical, emotional, and spiritual issues for self and others. The class is for both personal growth and professional certification, and is taught in a modular form, accepting new students every four weeks.

Class offerings have expanded to include three evening Tai Chi classes in addition to Sun Shen’s ongoing five-days-per-week morning classes, and the school has added a weekly open house from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. on Fridays, when members of the community come in, practice Tai Chi or bodywork, eat together, and just hang out. This helps fulfill the school’s mission of “mysticism for the modern world,” by creating a community of fellowship and support in otherwise busy lives.

Master Kim and his students have also been able to implement a dream of Master Chin’s — the Chi Clinic. This is a way of offering energy and healing support for people, five days a week for one hour. This is facilitated by Master Kim’s senior healing students, Alexis Neuhaus and Joanna Myers. They, along with participants in the clinic, both send and receive healing energy during the designated time. This is offered remotely Monday through Friday so that people anywhere in the world can receive and add to the energy, since energy is not limited by distance, explained Neuhaus. On Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, the Clinic is also offered in person, so people who prefer to come into the school to participate may do so. The Clinic is offered during the day, but people who work or have other responsibilities at those times can still participate.

Participants receive a text when the Clinic begins so that they may connect with the energy. They may lie down and focus on receiving healing, or they may just go about their lives and still benefit. Neuhaus said that he always feels better after the Clinic, since he is receiving energy as well as sending it. He has heard great results from participants with chronic pain or health problems who have improved, as well as from people who have just wanted more energy and to “feel more alive.”

More information about Sun Shen is available at The school is located at 2466 East Stadium Boulevard, Ann Arbor, MI 48104. Questions can be directed to or (734) 845-9786.

The Brain Center division of the Natural Balance Wellness Medical Center opened in 2013, and uses brainwave optimization to help clients with a variety of issues. Dayatra West, the Brain Center’s manager and lead technologist, holds a degree in psychology and is certified by Brain State Technologies. Brainwave optimization involves placing sensors on the head that pick up brainwaves. Software “translates” the brainwaves into sound, which is played for the person undergoing optimization. This allows the brain to “autocallibrate,”self-correcting imbalances and often resulting, West explained, in better sleep, reduced stress, improved mental clarity, better mood, and even improved relationships.

West said that she has worked with clients from ages 4 to 85. She has seen children for focus issues and ADD/ADHD symptoms, some of whom are on medication or have been told they should be. The treatment has been very successful in helping them get off medication, she said. Adults come in for stress, anxiety, and depression, as well as sleep problems. Older clients have come in for “brain fog,” poor sleep, and balance and memory problems. West said, “If you don’t want to be on medication or experience invasive therapies, this is a great fit.” She added, “It’s cutting-edge technology, it’s safe, it’s non-invasive, and it has a 90-percent success rate.”

West explained that clients start with an assessment, which takes about an hour and a half to collect data. The assessment is then analyzed by the computer and the technologist to ensure that brainwave optimization would be a good fit. The client then receives a program to follow. After the assessment, the client undergoes 10 daily 45 to 90 minute sessions, followed by a 6-week healing integration program. After this, occasional sessions can be done for maintenance. Most of her clients, said West, have reported immediately better sleep, better focus, and improvement in personal relationships as well as progress on the issues they came in for. “The brain does all the work,” she explained, “finding a balance that works best for the individual at its own pace.” She also said that this technique is “much faster than traditional neurofeedback techniques” in that people tend to feel better much faster.

The Brain Center (part of the Natural Balance Wellness Medical Center) is located at 1310 South Main Street, Ann Arbor, MI 48104. Dayatra West can be reached by email at or by phone at (734) 716-7656. More information is available online at (See Ad on Page 61.)


Please note that the “What’s New” column is an editorial (not paid-for advertising) feature of the Crazy Wisdom Journal, and the editors may or may not include what you submit. Whether the editors include material or not will depend on space considerations, as well as other editorial issues, such as the need for high resolution jpgs and the overall mix of stories included in the “What’s New in the Community” column in a given issue. If you would like to submit information to be considered for this column, please email or drop off or mail to the store: What’s New in the Community, 114 South Main, Ann Arbor, MI 48104. The firm deadline for submissions for the next issue (May through August 2016) is March 1, 2016.

Posted on December 31, 2015 .

All Creatures Great and Small — Does Your Pet Need an Animal Chiropractor?

By Karen Foulke Larson

Sarah Wilkinson, Doctor of Chiropractic, always knew she wanted a career working with animals. She started working at an animal hospital in high school, and through the years as she moved her way up to head animal technician, learned the importance of preventive care. She saw how raw food diets, chiropractic care, and acupuncture helped the animals she cared for as well as her own pets. This influenced her decision to become certified as an animal chiropractor. She now treats cats and dogs and even horses.

What is Animal Chiropractic?

Chiropractic deals with the entire nervous system. Misaligned vertebrae (known as subluxations) can put pressure on spinal nerves. By adjusting the misaligned vertebrae, chiropractic care addresses the cause of the problem instead of just the symptoms.

Some of the conditions that might cause a pet owner to seek chiropractic care for their cat or dog include: gait problems; behavioral changes; performance problems; musculoskeletal problems; disc problems; joint problems; limping; age-related degeneration; neck, back, leg and/or tail pain; decreased range of motion; maintenance of joint and spinal health; and wellness and preventive care. One of the causes of subluxations can be some form of trauma, like getting hit by a car or a slip and fall. The birthing process can also cause subluxations.

An animal chiropractor works to restore function and mobility to the compromised vertebrae in an effort to re-establish neurologic transmissions and allow the body to perform at its potential. Animal chiropractors use their hands to identify the areas of restriction and then apply a precise thrust on the immobile anatomical structures to restore the normal motion of the vertebrae.

Animal chiropractic care is often sought to correct a problem, but it is also beneficial for wellness and preventive care. It does not replace traditional veterinary care and, as Wilkinson explained, is an integrative method that is used in conjunction with traditional veterinary care.

Finding a Chiropractor for Your Pet

Wilkinson’s field has grown over the last fifteen years, but there are many pet owners who are just finding out about this option. When she introduces herself to someone for the first time away from her clinic, she often hears the question, “Can I see your business card?” She has had many interesting conversations sitting next to strangers on airplanes who didn’t even realize animal chiropractors existed.

When looking for an animal chiropractor, start with the American Veterinarian Chiropractic Association (AVCA), the certifying agency for chiropractors and veterinarians who have undergone post-graduate animal chiropractic training. Some chiropractors might offer to take care of their patients’ pets, or may have graduated from a basic animal chiropractic program, but Wilkinson cautioned that finding a Doctor of Chiropractic (D.C.) or a Doctor of Veterinarian Medicine (D.V.M.) who is certified by the AVCA guarantees that they are thoroughly trained and have passed a written and clinical exam.

The Michigan Veterinary Medical Association requires a veterinarian’s referral and observation for chiropractic care. Wilkinson works at the Synergy Animal Hospital and Chiropractic in Saline (the same clinic where she started working during high school) with Linda Fung, D.V.M. It costs $85 to see both the veterinarian and the animal chiropractor. The cost for adjustments is $50. Some pet owners schedule regular visits, but the frequency of visits varies based on the individual pet’s needs.

Wilkinson said that once the primary issue improves, there are often other changes to the animal’s overall well-being, such as allergy relief or the pet tolerating medications better.

Popular with Pets (and Owners)

Kim Dermyre has known Wilkinson for at least fifteen years. Wilkinson first cared for Dermyre’s pets when she was a vet technician at Synergy. Dermyre’s Rhodesian Ridgeback, Geunther, was the first Dermyre pet to receive chiropractic care. Dermyre’s current pet, Greta, is a 68-pound Rhodesian Ridgeback. Dermyre thinks chiropractic care has helped extend Greta’s life. She is now 14.

Dermyre said, “The results were phenomenal. It gives them the ability to move more freely as they age with the onset of arthritis.”

When asked about Wilkinson, Dermyre added, “Her knowledge and compassion, along with a beautiful personality, are tops, and most of all, her love of animals makes her a special doctor as well as a person.”

If pet owners are questioning whether their pet will tolerate chiropractic care, Wilkinson can put their concerns at ease. One example is an 85-pound pit bull mix who originally saw Wilkinson for an injured back. The dog was nervous at the first visit when she was in pain, but as soon as Wilkinson corrected the problem, she quickly welcomed the visits to Wilkinson. Now she runs in the door of the clinic, finds Wilkinson, and sits in her lap.

Want to know more about animal chiropractic? Visit the American Veterinarian Chiropractic Association’s website:

Sarah Wilkinson, D.C., practices at Synergy Animal Hospital and Chiropractic located at 250 E. Michigan Avenue in Saline. For more information, visit or call (734) 944-1640. She is also co-owner of Life's Journey Family Chiropractic, located in Ann Arbor, and is one of the few AVCA certified animal chiropractors in the state.

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Posted on December 31, 2015 and filed under Animals.

Crysta Goes Visiting

By Crysta Coburn

Hitting the Stage with Kristin Danko

You could not meet a more upbeat and passionate person than Kristin Danko, the executive creative director of Ypsilanti’s newest theatre company, Neighborhood Theatre Group (NTG). Kristin and her partner, Aaron Dean, founded the company after spending years in Chicago’s experimental theatre scene. Kristin, who holds bachelor’s degrees in both theatre and music and a master’s degree in arts administration from Eastern Michigan University, brought her talents to Ypsilanti in 2013. Why did she leave the Windy City for our little Ypsi? I sat down with her at Sweetwaters Coffee and Tea in Ypsilanti, across the street from her alma mater, to find out.

After seven and a half years in Chicago, Kristin had tried her hand at everything from storefront theatre and musicals to improv and comedy. She loved it all, but …“I got really tired of acting,” she told me. “I wasn’t feeling challenged, and I wanted to challenge myself in theatre in a new way.”

So when she was accepted into EMU’s graduate school, she and her partner packed up and headed to Michigan. They originally looked at living in Ann Arbor but were shocked to discover that rental prices were comparable to what they had been paying in Chicago. They found themselves more attracted to the DIY-vibe of Ypsilanti, and also liked the quirkiness of the city. They’ve lived in Ypsi for over two years now and have no plans to leave.

“There is so much talent here!” Kristin gushed, but she also lamented that there aren’t enough outlets for actors to pursue after graduation. She and the whole NTG crew hope to change that by becoming the “premier experimental theatre for Ypsilanti,” a place where actors can get their start and experiment with original shows. “New theatre companies are a dime a dozen in Chicago,” she said. “[Ypsilanti has] more opportunity to explore the art form.”

The NTG will be performing a cabaret show March 24 to 26 at Ypsilanti’s Back Office Studio, where Kristin is also Artist in Residence. They will also perform a weekly sketch show at the same studio starting Fridays in May. The goal is to get their own space, but for now they are thrilled with the support they’re receiving from the community.

What Kristin finds so magical about theatre is the “connection of energy” between the audience and the performers. “You’re creating something with a group of people that’s bigger than you. Once you perform, we get to all go through this together.” The excitement is contagious. I can’t wait to see what Kristin and NTG come up with next!

Contact Kristin at Follow NTG on Facebook at, on Twitter @NTGYpsi, and on Instagram @NeighborhoodTheatreGroup.

Crafting Up Something Fun with Celena Lopez

Celena Lopez of Ypsilanti is an independent, clever, and crafty lady. She has made handcrafted blankets for all of her friends’ babies, mostly knitted, but “the last one was quilted because I ran out of time.” I don’t generally think of quilting as a quick and easy task. That’s the kind of can-do attitude that Celena brings to her projects. She may not always know how or when a project will get done, but it will get done, and in my opinion, it will be beautiful and carefully and professionally finished.

After her first year in the world of D.I.Y. craft fairs, Celena had already graduated from sharing a table at Ypsilanti’s twice yearly show DIYpsi to having a full table all to herself. She has also traveled for out-of-state craft fairs, such as Handmade Toledo Maker’s Mart. She sells under the name Diosa de la Luna. Her wares can be found year round through her online shop and at the Eyrie located in Ypsilanti’s historic Depot Town, a store that features only Michigan-made products by local artists and crafters.

It was the Eyrie’s owner Janette Rook, a friend, who initially started Celena on her path to selling. As Celena puts it, “She said one day, ‘I know you’re a crafty person, why aren’t I selling your stuff?’” Another friend and independent artist Marcy Davy of All Things Grow also encouraged Celena to get involved in craft shows.

After thinking hard about what she could sell, Celena settled on her beloved Ypsilanti’s iconic (and infamous) water tower, knitting its image into dish cloths and sewing felt pieces onto fabric framed in wooden embroidery hoops. The tower has also been turned into a stuffed toy and anthropomorphized with big eyes and a “hair” bow for a female tower or a bow tie for male. Both are adorable. She has branched out into other hoop designs since. (I purchased one depicting a jar of fireflies that made the perfect housewarming gift for a friend who moved to California, where they don’t have fireflies.)

Recently, Celena has moved into becoming an independent sales rep for other artists “specializ[ing] in connecting wholesale buyers with artists of trendy paper goods and gift items.” She explained to me that with her finding the buyers, the artists can concentrate on creating, allowing them more time to meet product demands.

This hasn’t slowed her down too much, though. She still works on her own art while also holding down an hourly part-time job and finds time for outdoor adventuring with her husband, Ben, and their too cute Pomeranian, Asher. This last year, Celena successfully trained for and completed Ypsilanti’s Color Run despite the arthritis in her ankle caused by an injury, which just proves this woman will take on anything! And win.

You can email Celena at and find her online at both and, or like her on Facebook at

A Look at Ayurveda with Andrea Ridgard

The word Ayurveda is made up of two Sanskrit words, ‘ayur’ (life) and ‘veda’ (study or science). Andrea Ridgard is a bright and passionate local Ayurveda healer and practitioner who was gracious enough to sit and talk with me. She explained that Ayurveda goes beyond just “the study of life” — it can also mean the study of one’s self. As Andrea put it, Ayurveda is “asking yourself ‘Who am I?’”

“The base line is the five elements,” said Andrea, which are earth, water, fire, air, and ether. They come together in pairs to make the three vital energies called doshas. As a healer, Andrea is looking for what has come out of alignment, something that “feels off,” between these energies. She pays particular attention to skin, eyes, and digestion. “A healthy digestion equals a healthy constitution!” (This is why Ayurveda is so frequently tied to diet.) When something feels off, such as sluggishness, sudden insomnia, and constipation, “you’re not aligning with yourself.”

When a patient sees Andrea for the first time, she has them fill out a form that asks many questions about lifestyle. She told me this is often enlightening for the patient because they start to notice patterns and habits in their lives that they never realized before. Sometimes it’s, “Wow! I have no routine!,” which can be stressful on a body.

Andrea is not likely to prescribe treatments like taking herbs, which she has less knowledge of. As a hatha yoga instructor (yoga is a sister study of Ayurveda), she is more likely to suggest that a patient practice a certain posture for a 30-day stretch and take notice of any changes that occur in his or her body. She described Ayurveda as a “slow science,” not a magic pill. “Patients need to take on some responsibility,” she said. “It can be a very big lifestyle change for people to slow down. There’s a lot to miss when we’re rushing.” She sees being an Ayurvedic healer as “an invitation to stand beside someone and help them on their healing.” She will refer patients to others who are more capable of helping when possible.

One simple practice Andrea advises for anyone is to start the day with a cup of hot water. (The amount and temperature is up to how much the individual can stand.) This will warm up the digestive tract, making it easier for the body to process food, and it will ease constipation better than coffee. I started it myself. I’m not a morning person and often skip breakfast. Now I feel more settled and ready for food in the mornings. Try it and see what you think!

Contact Andrea at For more information and a list of her class offerings, head to

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Leaps of Faith — Tales of Local Businesses: The Eyrie & Tiny Buddha Yoga

By Mary Runser | Photos by Susan Ayer

This is one in a series of articles we’ve been doing on local business owners and their businesses. What follows are profiles of two interesting businesses that are thriving despite the odds.

The Eyrie — Depot Town’s Home for the Work of Michigan Artists and Artisans

Janette Rook, owner; 50 E. Cross Street, Ypsilanti, Michigan 48198; (734) 340-9286;

Janette Rook describes her shop as an art and gift shop that features items from more than 220 Michigan artists. Those unique items include jewelry, accessories, greeting cards, photography, pottery, blown glass, handmade candles and soap, and much, much more.

Janette, who is originally from the Lansing area, worked as a flight attendant for Northwest Airlines in Norfolk, Virginia, prior to moving to Ann Arbor in 1998. She continued her career in the airlines industry, eventually becoming a union leader. After gaining years of experience as a union leader, she became union president, just before Northwest merged with Delta. “Delta was a non-union airline and so a major battle ensued. Unfortunately, we lost the union vote by a small margin, and so I decided to leave after that, and went to work with SAG-AFTRA, where I mainly represented and negotiated for the union broadcasters in Michigan.”

Soon, Janette began to feel that she wanted to make a change, and she decided that she was going to open her own retail business. Over her years of traveling for work and shopping in different retail shops, she realized how generic everything was becoming and how each shop she visited seemed to be the same as the last. “It’s like that because retail shop owners tend to go to the same shows to purchase their inventory items for the year,” she explained. Those items are generally mass manufactured leaving little room for diversity or uniqueness in the shopping experience. Janette wanted the focus of her store to be on things that are crafted locally because she believed it would be better for Michigan’s economy — and just more interesting.

Motivated by the goal of doing something different, Janette opened The Eyrie in April 2012, at 9 E. Cross Street. The original location received a lot of support from the local artist community, and its success helped The Eyrie establish roots in the downtown Ypsilanti community. But its proximity next to the river, farther away from the hub of activity in Depot Town, was not ideal for attracting new foot traffic. So, in February 2014, Janette moved to the larger and more visible space she now occupies at 50 E. Cross Street. “[At the original location] I did things to try to spruce up the space, including planting flowers outside. A few neighborhood women volunteered to help with the gardening and landscaping, and they made it look absolutely beautiful. I was so grateful for what they did…. The incredible people and sense of community here are just a few of the perks to having your own business in downtown Ypsilanti.”

Another perk is being in a community which appreciates and welcomes a kind of shop that is different from most other retail shops. “About 99 percent of the inventory in The Eyrie is Michigan made,” Janette said. The remaining items are used mostly to add color, fill space, or break up a certain pattern. “When I first moved into this [much larger] space, I thought I had plenty of product to fill it up. I realized fairly quickly that I could throw a bowling ball through the store it was so empty.” Looking around the store now, one can clearly see this is no longer the case!

So how exactly does Janette go about finding the items that fill The Eyrie’s shelves? “I purchase most of my inventory outright, directly from the artists — about 75 percent actually — and then the other 25 percent I get from artists on consignment.” Doing it this way allows Janette to curate a wide variety among The Eyrie’s offerings, and consignment allows her to try items she’s not so sure will sell well. “There are several indie art fairs that are great venues for seeing new work and meeting artists. DIYpsi, the Detroit Urban Craft Fair, DIY Street Fair in Ferndale, and Dally in the Alley in Detroit are just some of the excellent [places] where you can find up-and-coming artists and artisans,” she continued. She said it’s actually really easy for her to find the items she wants to carry. “There are so many people in the area and state creating amazing things. Ypsilanti is just blooming with creativity and talent.”

Since opening in 2012, The Eyrie’s customer base has grown significantly. “I think that being in Depot Town so close to the restaurants creates a mutually beneficial atmosphere because people like to shop when they go to eat and drink, and vice-versa. It’s a key combination [for] the long-term vitality of both retail and dining establishments in a given area,” Janette said. The diversity in Ypsilanti also means a wide-ranging customer base for The Eyrie. “What that means is that I have to be able to strike just the right balance, [carrying] items that will be attractive to the middle-American consumer while also carrying those items that speak to and about Ypsi’s more diverse and funky side.”

Janette’s goal with The Eyrie was to create something unique and different, and she has done just that. “I wanted to create something to make me feel good and to make others feel good,” she said. “I feel pretty good every day when I come to work. It doesn’t really feel like work. Even making less money is worth it for the way I feel every day. If I want to do something, I can. I don’t have to check in with someone before trying something new. Almost every day, I get positive feedback and get to meet creators and see their art as well — where else do you get that?”

Tiny Buddha Yoga

Studio -- 1717 Pauline Boulevard, Ann Arbor, Michigan 48105; Boutique -- 213 South State Street (upstairs); Ann Arbor, Michigan 48104

Risa Gotlib, owner; (734) 926-5040;;

Risa Gotlib, owner of Tiny Buddha Yoga, knew from a young age that she wanted to be an entrepreneur; her path to getting there just took some unexpected twists. Born and raised in Ann Arbor, Risa went on to attend U-M, where she began her college career as an economics major. “I always wanted to own my own business, or at least be in charge of one. I’ve been a non-conformist from a young age,” she said. However, within the first year of college, she knew that economics was not really the path she wanted to follow. She became interested in psychology and biology, and began a pre-med curriculum, pursuing majors in each, but her goals shifted once more prior to graduation. “I realized again, nearly too late, that I didn’t want to be a doctor, but I decided to graduate with those degrees as I was closer to getting them than the economics degree.”

After graduating from U-M in 2007, Risa moved to New York, where she would live for the next five years. When asked about her impetus for moving, she explained that having lived her whole life in Ann Arbor up until that point, with three sisters all in the same age group, she felt as if her family knew everyone in town. She found herself simply wanting a change. “I wanted to experience life outside of Ann Arbor and see what it was like to have some anonymity. I didn’t have a job or an apartment when I left. I just filled my car up with my belongings, mostly clothing, and left for New York.” 

Risa’s various job experiences over the next five years each provided her with knowledge she would carry into her future endeavors as a business owner. Her most memorable and educational experience was with MOSCOT Eyewear, a family-owned New York institution in luxury eyewear. Three months after Risa started with MOSCOT, her boss, Kenny Moscot, encouraged her to take on a bigger role in the company, and she became Director of Sales for International and Domestic Wholesale. She worked in that position for about one year, getting the opportunity to travel to Europe twice during that time for international tradeshows. When her boss became ill with cancer, prompting management roles to change, Risa decided to move on from MOSCOT’s, but not without taking away a lasting appreciation for the guidance and mentorship her boss showed to her. “[Kenny] really was a friend and a mentor to me, and I gained an incredible amount of knowledge about how to run a business and how to treat people while working with him,” she said.

While living in New York, Risa also found power yoga. She’d done yoga before, as an alternative to physical education in high school, and she tried another style when one of her sisters began practicing to help her scoliosis.

“I wanted to be like my big sister, and so I started studying Iyengar yoga as well. I liked this style but I was not so committed to it that I had to do it every day. That came later, during my period of time in New York. I’d quit my job, broken up with a boyfriend, and was considering selling everything and moving to India to take yoga teacher training. I realized, though, that I would just be running away from my problems and life if I did this, rather than facing them head-on.”

In 2012, Risa returned to Michigan to be the director of sales for a start-up company in Detroit. She left her job after a short time, realizing that it was not what she wanted. In spring 2013, she began doing yoga teacher training and then started teaching classes around Ann Arbor. The next step that came for her was starting Tiny Buddha Yoga Studio, a transition that seemed to take place seamlessly.

“I’m really not even sure how or when it happened,” Risa said. “I just began looking for spaces, and then I signed a lease on a space, and found myself quitting all my other yoga teaching jobs, and in January 2015, I officially opened Tiny Buddha Yoga Studio.” Risa had a following of students from the various classes she taught, so the studio started strong from the get-go. “I really am so blessed. I have this feeling that I’m like a cat, and I hope that I have more than nine lives because I just told you about six different times when I should have fallen flat on my face but landed on my feet instead.” The studio now, according to Risa, runs itself. And with eight other teachers on her staff, Risa will soon have the opportunity to lead her own teacher training. “I want people to be able to bring all of their yoga experience with them, but then to hone it to my style of teaching for the Tiny Buddha Yoga Studio.”

With her energy and spirit for achieving, Risa did not shy away from pursuing a new project in addition to the studio. In September 2015, she opened Tiny Buddha Boutique, a yoga clothing store. She got the idea for the boutique when, one day, a yoga teacher from Rasa Flow Yoga came in to take a class at Tiny Buddha and explained that the owners of her studio were relinquishing their space (upstairs at 213 South State Street) and moving to Santa Barbara, California, in May 2015. After learning this, Risa walked outside and immediately called the real estate management company to tell them she’d like to rent the space. In July 2015, she began renovations and opened the boutique in September.

Risa has always been very passionate about fashion and design, so opening the yoga clothing store seemed like a natural progression…. “I’ve always been into funky yoga clothes and always tried to find the weirdest yoga clothing possible.” That interest has now blossomed into an entire boutique filled with funky yoga clothes. “There’s actually a huge fashion trend in yoga clothing with so many cool brands in New York, California, Europe, and South America [making things that are] so beautiful and different, and there’s a huge market for it. I’m actually surprised, but happy, that no one else in Ann Arbor has taken on this trend.”

Yoga helps you to understand the ways in which your body is supposed to move. The asanas help burn off frenetic energy allowing you to be quiet, to meditate and reflect. There are many other aspects, such as behavior and nutrition, which are all important to the practice of yoga — and to the nurturing of the entire being. Risa tries diligently to address and emphasize all these aspects at Tiny Buddha Studio, offering a place where people can come together to support one another on their journeys to overall health and wellness. While there is much competition in the world of yoga, the most inspiring feedback Risa said she has received about her studio is that it feels like home.


Posted on December 31, 2015 .

Sustainable Health: “Life's Not Fair!” — Forgiveness and Well-Being

By Dr. Dalinda Reese

The “unfairness” of life is a reality that all of us experience in one way or another. We get hurt. Someone treats us poorly. Someone or something special to us moves away or is taken from us. Relationships end. We get sick. What was once normal to us is now gone…. Such are the vicissitudes of life. How we respond can have a huge impact on our well-being.

Enter forgiveness. Really? Is that important? you might ask. It is. Isn't that just a way of excusing bad behavior? Isn't that saying whatever happened was okay or didn't matter? Isn't that just another way of religion making us feel bad about ourselves? I don’t think so.

For eons talk about forgiveness has belonged to the religious realm, but if we can appreciate religions as wisdom traditions, perhaps we can look more closely and openly at what is being said. Clergy, theologians, and philosophers in the earlier part of the 20th century expanded the dialogue on forgiveness. Simon Wiesenthal's book, The Sunflower: On the Possibilities and Limits of Forgiveness, first published in 1969 by Schocken Books, is a classic example of this. Over fifty global leaders, writers, philosophers, spiritual leaders — all luminaries in their own right — were asked to explore and respond to Wiesenthal's questions about his experiences as a prisoner in a concentration camp. While imprisoned, Wiesenthal was summoned to the bedside of a dying Nazi soldier who confessed his atrocities against Jews and asked Wiesenthal for forgiveness. Difficult questions indeed with no easy answers. We may not even have a paradigm that can hold the pathos of those questions.

By the second half of the 20th century, and especially since the 1980s, social scientists have looked at forgiveness through an empirical lens, bringing its exploration from the theoretical, philosophical realm into the measurable realm. All research requires, among many considerations, a definition of terms, determining what to measure, how to measure it, and then deciding what those measurements mean. Yet research on an inter-dynamic and connected “whole” is always limited. By dissecting a matter, we risk losing or missing important aspects. Despite these limitations, the study of forgiveness has provided understandings and tools that may be useful to our lives and to our sense of well-being.

To begin with a basic definition, forgiveness is a change from a negative attitude or behavior in response to a person or event to a neutral or positive attitude or behavior in response to the same person or event. It other words, forgiveness is getting unhooked from a grievance cycle. It is making peace with life’s hurts. Forgiveness is not forgetting, denying, excusing, condoning, or pardoning. It is not pretending something didn’t happen. Forgiveness is not even reconciliation. Although reconciliation can happen, it is not the goal of, nor is it necessary for, forgiveness. Forgiveness is peace and freedom now from a past hurt. Forgiveness is freedom from a pain-perpetuating entrapment.

In general, observational studies suggest that forgiveness correlates with fewer depressive symptoms, a greater sense of well-being, and better health. One study of 1,500 older Americans showed that unconditional forgiveness was associated with fewer mental/emotional and somatic depressive symptoms and a greater sense of life satisfaction and well-being (Krause and Ellison, 2003). Another study of 1,232 older Americans showed that conditional forgiveness (“I will forgive only if…”) was associated with a greater risk of all-cause mortality (Toussaint et al., 2012). A study at Duke University showed that HIV-positive patients with higher forgiveness scores also had evidence of better immune function (Owen et al., 2011). Although not a study of forgiveness, the largest prospective study of aging and health in North America suggests that an adaptive coping style (for example, not being stuck in a grudge) is one of the top predictors of being well at age 80 (Vailliant, 2010).

Interventional studies, in which forgiveness is discussed and taught, suggest that we can learn to forgive and improve our health and well-being. One of the largest of these studies is Dr. Fredric Luskin’s Stanford Forgiveness Project, in which 259 adults who held a grudge (harbored unforgiveness) participated in a series of six weekly small group educational sessions with practice homework between the sessions. Measurements before, immediately after, and several months after the intervention included: degree of emotional hurt, degree of anger, psychological and emotional well-being, likelihood of forgiving offenses, and degree of forgiveness toward offender. This and smaller studies by Dr. Luskin showed that learning to forgive decreased anger and hurt, increased likelihood of forgiveness, improved emotional and psychological health, and a perception of increased health. Interestingly, Dr. Luskin notes that time will decrease the pain of an offense, but forgiveness seems to be important for improving psychological and emotional health. The benefits of forgiveness seem to have staying power. Learning to forgive builds on itself and continues to have a positive impact on how one relates to life’s challenges.

Other interventional studies affirm the positive effects of forgiveness on health. For example, people with coronary artery disease can have episodes of cardiac ischemia (lack of blood flow to areas of the heart) that are related to anger-recall. One study showed that ten weekly forgiveness sessions could significantly decrease how much ischemia is present with anger-recall (Waltman et al., 2009). A study of patients with high blood pressure suggested that learning to forgive may normalize blood pressure in those who have high levels of anger (TD Ellis et al., 2006). And in a small study of women with fibromyalgia who had been abused in childhood, a 24-session individualized forgiveness program increased both forgiveness and overall health (Lee and Enright, 2014).

Forgiveness interventions can vary greatly. In essence, what they seem to have in common is: (1) a clear description of what forgiveness is and especially what it is not, (2) increasing awareness of the ways we habitually think and feel about offenses, (3) and recognizing and further developing our own resources to facilitate forgiveness.

There does need to be safety and also some “distance” from the acute pain and grieving triggered by the offense before talking about forgiveness. Then, the first step in forgiveness is to know exactly how you feel about the offense and to be clear about what was not okay. With that clarity you can explore, understand, and dispute the underlying thought patterns, beliefs, and expectations that keep you stuck. In addition to this cognitive understanding, regular mind-body practices are necessary to help you recognize and grow your heart-centered resources (awareness, mindfulness, presence, gratitude, compassion, loving-kindness, resilience, strength, and such). This allows you to respond, rather than reflexively react, to your perceptions and experiences. Together, the head and heart can help transform the grievance cycle and release the power it has over you.

Life gives us plenty of opportunities to forgive. When I first became involved with forgiveness work, I realized that there were many things in my life that I had indeed forgiven. My own personal spiritual practices had sustained me and facilitated forgiveness of the more egregious hurts that I experienced. The more I work with forgiveness training, the more I see. Forgiveness can involve small things or large things. It can be general or specific. There can be layers and overlaps. It seems once I’ve mastered one thing another presents itself!

A personal example occurred in 2012, shortly after I moved to Ann Arbor to join the holistic practitioners at Bio Energy Medical Center (BEMC). Most of my medical career had been in Virginia, where I had moved after medical school in Ann Arbor to do my internship and residencies. I had taken a six-year hiatus from clinical practice. During that time, I was living in Canada, pursuing latent interests, recovering from burnout, and “re-tooling” to a more holistic form of medicine. As I began working at BEMC, I started having a deep, intense, and persistent right neck and shoulder pain — like a meat hook lodged along the right side of my neck and into my shoulder.

I sought out some craniosacral therapy (energy sensitive, light touch manual therapy). The therapist held her hands over my shoulder and asked if the pain might be related to unforgiveness. The question jarred a response into my consciousness: yes. I knew it had to do with resentment, but not toward any specific person or event. Rather it was a smoldering rage against my whole medical education. My pain and underlying anger surfaced as I was beginning a new practice of medicine in the same place where I had begun my medical education so many years ago. I had survived medical school, but at tremendous personal cost to my sensitive, creative, and introverted self.

I shared this experience with several trusted friends who gently listened and offered their loving support and observations. My goal in forgiveness was to (very literally) release the pain and to hold on to the strength I had discovered. The forgiveness was not immediate, nor was the resolution of the pain. However, with consistent breath and heart awareness work, with cognitive work that included journaling and creative expression, I was able to focus on what had kept that silenced part of myself alive and strong. Within a couple of months, my relationship to that grievance story had shifted and I had forgiven. The neck and shoulder pain was also gone.


As a physician, I understand how what we think, experience, and feel all affect our breathing, heart rate, heart rate variability, blood pressure, hormones, and which areas of the brain and body get the most blood flow and oxygen delivery. With my training and personal experience in spiritual direction, forgiveness work, and resilience, I am equally convinced that our internal physiology influences our perceptions and experiences. Forgiveness is one of our most powerful tools. Listening to the “wise heart” allows us to respond rather than reflexively react. It enables true well-being: mind, body, and heart.

Dalinda Reese, M.D., M.T.S., is a holistic physician, a Lev Shomea (Listening Heart) trained spiritual director, and a master’s degree candidate in spiritual care and psychotherapy. She has been offering forgiveness workshops since 2011.


Posted on December 31, 2015 .

Yoga Column: Yoga Questions for Katie

Dear Katie — I sit at a desk all day and have found that my shoulders are starting to swoop forward slightly. I’m having a harder time maintaining good posture and want to prevent it from getting worse. Is there a yoga pose or two that could help with this? Maybe something that I could do at my desk as well as something for at home?

Posted on December 31, 2015 and filed under Yoga, Wellness.

Green Living: Growing Visionary Educational Communities

By Ethan Lowenstein

On October 5, 2015, the Detroit activist and scholar Grace Lee Boggs died at the age of 100. I am among the fortunate many who had the opportunity to work and organize with Grace and who were touched by her presence. Grace’s efforts to help young people develop a deep sense of belonging to their communities, and a sense of their own worth through the practice of making their communities more just and loving places, continue to inspire what we do at the Southeast Michigan Stewardship Coalition (SEMIS Coalition). In the face of the social and ecological crises we are currently confronting, and with an educational system that sometimes seems more concerned with test scores than with community, Grace’s educational message and our work at the SEMIS Coalition couldn’t come at a more important time.

I first worked with Grace 15 years ago during Freedom Schooling discussions that were held by the James and Grace Lee Boggs Center, the Detroit-based organization for community leadership and change that Grace founded with her husband, James, in the early 1990s. Grace and her husband were passionate about schools and the role of imagination in change. The discussions drew inspiration from the Freedom Schools in the South during the 1960s and were based on the belief that schools not only needed to teach academics but help young people to develop a sense of themselves as agents of change and decision-makers. The discussions focused on liberating our imaginations to picture schools as they could and should be.

Place-based Education

When asked for advice by an Eastern Michigan University (EMU) student at a talk at EMU some years back, Grace smiled and said without hesitation, “Grow your souls and stay in the same place for a long, long time.” For much of her life, Grace wrote about revolution as an evolutionary process, stressing that the reason past revolutions had failed is because people had not evolved into full human beings, and therefore, once in power, they just reproduced the old system. She saw the role of schools as helping young people become “solutionaries” — people who are skilled at creating beloved communities, who, through being attached enough to their place and thirsty for self-growth, are able to simultaneously transform and heal themselves and their communities.

How we support educators, both classroom-based and community-based, in their work to help youth become solutionaries is one of the critical questions of our time. Our work in the SEMIS Coalition and in the College of Education at EMU has required us to think carefully about growing visionary educational communities in the times that we live in. In the education world, the approach we are using is called place-based education (PBE). In our experience, PBE — using the local community, including the environment, as the primary site for eliciting curiosity, posing questions, and envisioning possibilities and then acting to bring them into the world — is the most promising approach to education given our historical moment. While the PBE approach can be considered good old “progressive education,” aiming to meets the needs of the whole child, what makes it different is its central focus on healing relationships with each other and fellow community members in the natural world (the plants, animals, water), and in our particular place over long periods of time. It’s important to note that this focus on place-attachment and stewardship is not new, however; many indigenous cultures have educated their youth in this way for millennia.

The Southeast Michigan Stewardship Coalition

The SEMIS Coalition works with teachers from over 17 schools and over 25 community partner organizations in the region to help young people become citizen-stewards of their local communities and the Great Lakes. We are part of a larger state-wide organization called the Great Lakes Stewardship Initiative. We use a strength-based coalition model — in which our members contribute their gifts to the commons and express their need for support to fellow community members. We provide intensive supports to adults to learn how to use a place-based teaching approach. These supports include professional development, curriculum coaching, small grants for projects, and a welcoming, nurturing community in which educators can regain some strength, pause, reflect, and be with other visionary educators as they seek their own transformation and the transformation of their schools.

A couple of weeks ago, I ran into a parent of a SEMIS Coalition youth leader. The youth leader was deeply impacted by her SEMIS teachers and membership in the Coalition during fourth and fifth grade, and had done a presentation on her stewardship work in front of 150 adults at the Rotary Club of Ann Arbor. Having given similar presentations to other adults and youth many times prior (through her work at SEMIS Coalition), the student was confident, ethically grounded in her beliefs and love of her place, and articulate about solutions for healing that place. Through her experiences at school, she was able to develop a relationship with the natural world. Unfortunately, now in middle school, her opportunities for connecting to the outdoors have drastically decreased. Her mother lamented that her daughter’s educational experience has been deeply affected by not having recess and access to nature through school.

In the last several years I have been in dozens of schools and spoken with teachers and community-based educators from all over the country. The story is the same everywhere. Recess, the arts, and unstructured opportunities for learning are being removed from the school schedule at a time when it is most necessary for children to be inspired by these experiences.

Grace Lee Boggs was fond of asking “what time is it on the clock of the world?” What reality, at this moment in history, wants to and needs our help to emerge?

On the one hand, we live in a consumer culture that fractures us from what matters most. Many of our children are sped up, wound up, and cooped up in buildings. Testing pressures and a narrow focus on “academic achievement” tell a story of what it means to be human that is based on individualism and competition, not caring and community. Separated from neighbors, nature, and from older generations, children and the adults in their place are generally not being provided the opportunities to, as Grace Lee Boggs would say, “grow their souls.”

At the same time, another story is being told. We live at a time when, if we really pause and listen and sense with others, we can feel a new reality that wants to emerge, and that with a little stewardship from us, will emerge. It is the time of the “great turning” as Joanna Macy would say, an opportunity to transition to a healthier more sustainable world. In the region, there are many educators engaging in hopeful, healing work — who are helping the youth they work with become solutionaries. Ask any SEMIS Coalition teacher, for example, about their work, and they will tell you a story that will fill your heart.

Creating New Community Rituals

Creating new ways of “doing community” and celebrating together is important as we change the way we “do school.” Our year ends with an annual Community Forum held at EMU. At this forum, young people and adults engage in inter-generational dialogue around the social-ecological issues youth and their community partners are working on together. Last year 150 people attended 13 youth-led presentations and workshops at the Forum. When adults see third graders acting and thinking as solutionaries, and high school students from different backgrounds and parts of the region talking to fourth graders about their own leadership development, work and college aspirations — they leave with a different story of what education is and can be —they leave with hope. They also leave with more critical thinking and communication skills than can be measured on any test.

How can you help? Connect with us on Facebook and Twitter (@semiscoalition), join conversations that are happening on our blog (, or donate to help students become solutionaries through the SEMIS Coalition. Most of all, have conversations with your neighbors and schools in which you vision what schools can be. Such conversations, sustained over a long time, can change the world.

Dr. Ethan Lowenstein, Director of the SEMIS Coalition, is a professor of teacher education at Eastern Michigan University and the 2015 John W. Porter Distinguished Chair in Urban Education. Before his career in higher education, Dr. Lowenstein taught high school social studies in New York and was the 1996 New York City Board of Education Teacher of the Year for alternative schools. For more information about the SEMIS Coalition or EMU’s teacher preparation program, you can contact Dr. Lowenstein through the SEMIS Coalition website at

Posted on December 31, 2015 .