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Review Essays of Academic, Professional & Technical Books in the Humanities & Sciences


An Elementary Textbook of Ayurveda: a Six Thousand Year Old Healing Tradition by Frank John Ninivaggi (Psychosocial Press) Ayurveda is not merely an Asian medicine practice and theory but a holistic outlook on life- its meaning and how to maintain health physically, emotionally, and in consciousness. It is assumed that the personal drive to find meaning, to improve, to experience some degree of pleasure/satisfaction is a chief goal of everyone. As presented in this tightly written book Ayurevda addresses the basic issues of health and wholeness.

Rather than answer questions about dietary intake and exercise from a Western frame of reference, this text outlines thousands of years of experiential knowledge-- guidelines about discovering one's constitutional type and its particular needs. From specific, everyday foods to herbs- Western and from India- to essential oils and their application, this book gives the raison d'etre and specific guidelines for use.

In the chapter on Yoga and Meditation, a worldview based on the primacy of consciousness is eloquently elucidated. Techniques are discussed. Interestingly, all of this is done by a Yale psychiatrist trained in Western medicine, but with much experience in the traditions and procedures of the East.

Highly recommended as an introductory text that provides a balanced view of this tradition of medicine.

Acupuncture: efficacy, safety and practice edited by British Medical Association (Harwood Academic Press)

At the 1998 Annual Representative Meeting of the BMA a resolution was passed that the Board of Science and Education should "investigate the scientific basis and efficacy of acupuncture and the quality of training and standards of competence in its practitioners". This report reviews published literature and research on acupuncture, looks at safety aspects including the possible adverse effects of treatment, discusses education and training provision, presents results from a survey of UK GPs, and suggests future developments for acupuncture, particularly its potential for integration into the NHS. It will provide doctors and other healthcare professionals, researchers, students, patients, and purchasers of healthcare with information on this most widely used therapy of complementary and alternative medicine, enabling them to become more informed on the value of acupuncture and its likely place within the NHS.

This volume was prepared under the auspices of the Board of Science and Education of the British Medical Association (BMA). The BMA is a professional organization representing the medical profession in the UK.

An account of lived experience which challenges the very foundations of identity:


A Memoir

by Claire Sylvia with William Novak

Foreword by Bernie Siegel, M.D.

Little Brown and Company

$23.95, hardcover, 340 pages


Time Warner AudioBooks

ready by the author

$17.00, 2 cassettes, about 3 hours, abridged


Some books are hardly philosophical but they raise deep philosophical questions and challenge the normal nominalism of our everyday experience. This book is likely to suggest serious philosophical issues to anyone with an open mind to the blind of factors that makes for the biological basis of identity, life and spirit. The facts: ten years ago, when she was in her forties, Claire Sylvia received a complete and successful heart and lung transplant The unexplained began soon after recovering from her surgery, Claire Sylvia began craving fried chicken and beer (both of which she previously disliked) and also began having strange and incredibly vivid dreams about a young man she didn't recognize.

Over the years, Claire has come to recognize the man in these dreams was the eighteen year-old man whose heart and lungs reside in her chest. She has also become convinced that something far more serious and miraculous was transferred during that operation If something as vital and integral to life as a heart and lungs are placed into a waiting body of another, then what becomes of the donor's memories, dreams, cravings, feelings, essence? Might not—or rather, must not—some of these be imparted as well?

With the highly skilled help of William Novak, Claire delivers her story and those of other heart transplant patients with eloquence and passion; and in the process, she manages to bring fascinating medical, moral, and existential issues into play. A CHANGE OF HEART is the amazing true story of one woman's journey to the outer limits of medicine and the spirit. To save her life from a rare lung disease, Claire Sylvia underwent a heart-and-lung transplant. Her chest was sawed open, her diseased organs cut out, and in their place were grafted the heart and lungs of an eighteen-year-old man who had just died in a motorcycle accident. When she survived the surgery, she was sure that her great adventure was finally over. In fact, it was just beginning.

Even as she lay recovering in Intensive Care, Claire began to feel the presence of something or someone else within her. At first terrified and then fascinated, she soon noticed that her attitudes, habits, and tastes had changed. She had inexplicable cravings for food she had previously disliked. She found herself drawn toward cool colors and no longer dressed in the vibrant reds and oranges she used to love. And she started behaving with an aggressiveness and impetuosity she had previously never shown. Five months after the operation she had a remark able dream in which she met a young man named Tim L., a man she absolutely knew was her donor.

Thus began the second part of Claire's miraculous journey—to confirm whether or not the new personality within her was actually that of her donor. Along the way, begin? Is it possible to live on after death? How does one learn to accept this awesome gift? In a deeply moving and dramatic encounter, Claire finally meets the "family of my heart," finds some of the answers she had been looking for, and comes to understand the surprising bequest of love from the dead to the living.

A Change of Heart stimulates the mind with possible answers to some of life's deepest mysteries. It opens our spirits to new and ultimately comforting ways of accepting our mortality. It inspires us with the mesmerizing story of a courageous, sensible, and generous woman who was determined to understand what was happening to her and would not rest until she knew. And, most of all, it floods the darkness of tragedy with an immeasurable light.

Claire Sylvia id a dancer and choreographer. She had also founded several transplant support groups lecture? around the world taught dream choreography, an? currently performs a., a ballroom dancer.

"SEVERAL YEARS AGO, as I lay dying from a rare and fatal disease, my chest was sawed open and my heart and lungs were cut out of me. Into that hollow, scooped-out space, in a last-ditch effort to save my life, the doctors transplanted the heart and lungs of a young man who had just died in a motorcycle accident. In a sublime act of generosity and grace, his family had agreed to offer up this precious and singular gift to a total stranger.

"Within hours of their decision, that young man's lungs were breathing in my body, while his heart was pumping my blood with a pace and a vitality I had never known before. When I awoke from the operation and returned to life, I assumed that my long journey was finally over.

"In fact, it was just beginning.

"Before long, I began to feel that I had received more than just new body parts. I began to wonder if my transplanted heart and lungs had somehow arrived with some of their own inclinations and memories. I had dreams and experienced changes that seemed to suggest that some aspects of my donor's spirit and personality now existed within me.

"All my life I have been told that despite the protests of poets and the murmuring of mystics, the human heart is just a pump. An incredibly important pump, but only a pump, a monotonous, mandatory machine. According to this view, which is the accepted one in contemporary Western medicine, the heart contains no feelings and carries no wisdom, no knowledge, and no memories. And if one person's heart has previously resided in another person's body, that fact has no particular meaning or implication.

"I used to believe these things, but today I know differently. Perhaps there are other ways to think of the heart. Maybe some of the many qualities that have been attributed to the heart over the centuries are more than metaphorical. Even today, in our enlightened, scientific era, we still refer to the heart when we discuss our feelings and our values. When love dies, or death strikes, we speak of being brokenhearted. We take heart and lose heart all the time. When we want to be demonstrative, we wear our heart on our sleeve; when a person is insensitive, we say he is heartless. Pure heart, aching heart, soft heart, valiant heart, noble heart, tender heart, understanding heart—the list goes on.

"Could there possibly be some literal truth to these expressions? Even the most conservative cardiologist will acknowledge that the health and functioning of the heart are affected by certain emotional realities, including loneliness, depression, and alienation. And while it is commonly accepted that the mind and the body are deeply connected, we don't have nearly as many images or phrases pertaining to, say, the liver, the pancreas, or even the brain.

"When I acquired a new heart, I also acquired a new rhythm, new impulses, new knowledge, and new questions. I found myself on a fascinating and mysterious journey that I hadn't anticipated and wasn't prepared for, a journey that was occasionally frightening and sometimes euphoric. This adventure of discovery, and also of self-discovery, has forced me to look at life's mysteries in a completely new way.

"My journey began with the transplant, or perhaps earlier. But I didn't fully understand that I was already on it until five months after the operation, when I had an unusually vivid dream:

It's a warm summer day. I'm standing in an open, outside place, a grassy field. With me is a young man who is tall, thin, and wiry, with sandy-colored hair. His name is Tim, and I think his last name may be Leighton, but I'm not sure. I think of him as Tim L. We're in a playful relationship, and we're good friends.

The time has come for me to leave him, to join a performing group of acrobats. I start walking down a path, away from Tim. Suddenly I turn around, feeling that something remains unfinished between us. I walk back toward him to say good-bye. Tim watches me as I come closer, and he seems to be pleased that I am making my way back to him.

We kiss—and as we do I inhale him into me. It feels like the deepest breath I have ever taken. And I know at that moment the two of us, Tim and 1, will be together forever.

"I awoke from the dream exhilarated, as though I had just taken the deepest breath of my life. I also felt that I had integrated the new heart and lungs within me.

"Vivid dreams are not new to me. I pay close attention to the images that come to me, and I record them regularly in my journal. Some of my dreams are enigmatic, a vague and complicated puzzle to be mulled over later. But not this one. Until now, I had thought of my heart and lungs as having come from an anonymous stranger, an unknown young man whom I hadn't thought much about. But when this dream was over, something had changed. I woke up knowing—really knowing—that Tim L. was my donor and that some parts of his spirit and personality were now in me.

"I was eager to verify this information. But how? The transplant program at Yale—New Haven Hospital, where I received my new heart and lungs, observed a strict code of confidentiality. The hospital officials maintained an ironclad rule that the donor's identity could never be revealed to the recipient. The same was true in reverse: the donor's family could never be told exactly who had received the various organs they had made available. Strictly speaking, I wasn't even supposed to know what little I did: that my donor was an eighteen-year-old boy, that he lived in Maine, and that he died on a motorcycle. I had heard these things from a nurse shortly after the operation.

"The day after the dream, I called Gail Eddy, the transplant coordinator at Yale-New Haven, who had been enormously helpful to me before, during, and after the operation. I knew that Gail couldn't tell me who my donor was, but perhaps she would be willing to confirm the name of Tim L. from my dream. Assuming, of course, that my information was correct.

"And at first I thought it was. When I told Gail about the dream and asked whether my donor's name was Tim L., there was a momentary pause.

"No, no, you can't know that," Gail finally said. "I'm not supposed to discuss this with you. Please, Claire, let it go. Even if you succeed in tracking down the family, you'd just be opening a can of worms."

"What do you mean?"

"You can never predict how the donor's family will respond. People in these situations have all kinds of unexpected reactions. If you're curious about the donor, I don't blame you; I'd be curious too. But please let it go. This whole topic is too emotional and too volatile."

"I was disappointed by Gail's response, and a little surprised. But I respected her judgment and I assured her that I would drop the subject.

"But the subject refused to drop me.

"I would gradually learn a lot more about my donor. And eventually I would discover that my amazing dream about Tim L. was more true than I ever imagined."

A self-help book that challenges some fundaments about what we know as real:


Practical Ways to Transform Your Life with Meaningful Coincidence

by Charlene Belitz and Meg Lundstrom

Harmony Books

$22.00, hardcover, 276 pages, bibliography, index


Time and experience has been the object of serious philosophic discussion of late. This popular work challenges many serious assumptions about just how our psyche tunes into the flow of events. It is optimistic and wide ranging capturing many of the themes of spiritual self-culture that are so predominant today.

Imagine a day when you make every green light and slip effortlessly into a parking a spot in the most crowed part of of town. Imagine you turn on the radio and the exact song that that you have been humming all morning begins to play. The very day you lose your job, you bump into an old friend who tells you tells of an exciting job possibility.

These coincidences, called synchronicity, are sure signs that you are "in the flow." They stand out in our awareness as very special moments that dive us a deep sense of harmony and underlying order.

THE POWER OF FLOW is the first book to provide a systematic approach to increase meaningful coincidences in one’s life by enhancing the state of perfect timing and flawless serendipity known as flow. This is best guide for anyone wishing to recognize and use in a practical way the eternal wisdom that lies deep inside our own heart, mind, and spirit. Based on innovative research that used of hundreds of questionnaires, contact groups, and in-depth interviews, the authors, Charlene Belitz and Meg Lundstrom, managed to find more than fifty natural flowmasters. By weaving together their amazing and inspiring stories, the authors reveal the key traits that characterize their experience. These traits that can easily be practiced to multiply our own satisfaction, productivity, and harmony with life.

THE POWER OF FLOW provides fourteen precise techniques to put us in the flow. We can learn that experiencing the full power of flow is a matter of choice and action. The authors can discuss the characteristics and advantages of "life in the flow," along with the nine traits of natural flowmasters and how to develop them within ourselves. They also discuss how to learn to follow our intuition, and be more mindful, and take more creative risks.

Research for this book involved, in addition to surveys and focus groups, in-depth interviews with fifty people who are committed to living their life in flow. They range in age from seventeen to ninety-six, and were located through questionnaires, organizational contacts, published articles and networking. They live in big cities, small towns, suburbs, and rural areas across the country, and they work in offices, schools, stores, homes, clinics. Through their words and example they demonstrate what it means to have days rich with meaning and ease. They have learned, and are still learning—how to make flow strong and consistent, and they have much to offer about its dynamic, expanding nature.

From discussions with them, the authors distilled nine attributes that we can develop in ourselves to live deeply in flow on a steady, ongoing basis. They are: Commitment, Honesty, Courage, Passion, Immediacy, Openness, Receptivity, Positivity, and Trust. The nine attributes are not unique. In fact, when we look at ourselves, we find that we already possess them, some to a greater or lesser degree.

The fourteen techniques that follow discussion of these qualities show how to increase these attributes in practical way in ourselves so that we, too, can access flow at ever increasing levels. We see how along the way synchronicity lends a hand in developing these attributes.


One of the most moving books I have read this year.


by Jean-Dominique Bauby


$20.00, hardcover, 132 pages


This small book makes a strong impression. It has already been greeted with extraordinary acclaim in France and in early reviews in the States. An astonishing, profoundly moving memoir of a man afflicted by "locked-in syndrome", a state of virtually total paralysis that leaves the victim, in the author's own words, "like a mind in a jar."

In 1995, Jean-Dominique Bauby was the editor in chief of French Elle, the father of two young children, a forty-three-year-old man known and loved for his wit, his style, and his impassioned approach to life. By the end of the year he was also the victim of a rare kind of stroke to the brain stem. After twenty days in a coma, Bauby awoke into a body that had all but stopped working: only his left eye functioned, allowing him to see and, by blinking, to make clear that his mind was unimpaired. Almost miraculously, he was soon able to express himself in the richest detail, blinking to select letters one by one as a special alphabet vas slowly recited to him, over and over again. In the same way, he was eventually to compose this extraordinary book.

By turns wistful, mischievous, angry and witty, Bauby bears witness to his determination to live as fully in his mind as he had been able to in his body. He explains the joy, and the deep sadness, of seeing his children and of hearing his aged father's voice on the phone. In magical sequences, he imagines traveling to other places and times; of lying next to the woman he loves. Fed only intravenously, he imagines preparing and tasting the full flavor of delectable dishes. Again and again he returns to an "inexhaustible reservoir of sensations," keeping in touch with himself and the life around him.

Jean-Dominique Bauby died two days after the French publication of his book. The Diving Bell and the Butterfly is a lasting testament to life. This volume is well worth the read.

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