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Natural Awakenings Westchester / Putnam / Dutchess New York

Publisher's Letter

Dec 01, 2019 06:51PM ● By Marilee Burrell

I love December. People are more open when they feel those peace-on-earth-good-will-toward-men vibes. In the spirit of the season, we offer a lot to feel good about this month, from tips on how to “green” or update your holiday traditions, to our feature article about the growing focus on community over the individual—a shift that has important implications for our evolution.

One of my favorite childhood memories is being in the kitchen with my mom as she made Christmas cookies. Even when we were very young, my sisters and I were allowed to “help” by decorating and then enthusiastically sampling them. Mom would make many varieties of cookies, with dozens of each kind, and then carefully arrange them in colorful tins to give to neighbors and relatives. Her cookies were delicious—and a sight to behold—but after she stopped baking them, I did not continue the tradition. Since I avoid gluten and dairy, as well as highly processed ingredients and cane sugar, I have sadly been holiday cookie free for several years. But not this year! Inspired by this month’s Conscious Eating article, “The Merry Vegan: People-Pleasing Holiday Sweets,” I am reviving my mom’s tradition, making holiday cookies that I can give as gifts and eat myself. (Turn to pages 26 to 29 for three dairy-free, gluten-free holiday recipes you might want to try.) 

According to the American Psychological Association, holiday traditions are important. They build strong family relationships, boost teenagers’ sense of personal identity and increase marital satisfaction. If you’d like to add to or update the holiday rituals and traditions at your home, we have some great ideas for you in “Refresh Holiday Traditions, Making the Old New and Green,” on page 34.

If you crave a sense of community, as I do, this month’s feature article, “The Emerging Power of ‘We’: Awakening to the Evolution of Community,” will resonate with you. It speaks about the importance of community for living, evolving and navigating these complex times on Planet Earth. As writer Linda Sechrist notes, the famous Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh has suggested that the next Buddha will take form not as an individual, but as a sangha, a community practicing mindful living: “Even the best intentions, (Thich) noted, can falter without such a group of trusted family, friends and co-practitioners experiencing mindfulness together.”

Fortunately, the concept of “community” is broadening; it’s now possible to be part of an online community as well as a brick-and-mortar one. The important thing is to go where your interests are, whether that’s a healing or spiritual center, an environmental group, a yoga studio or a community garden. Check out our calendar and you’ll find plenty of opportunities to find community.

One of our intentions with Natural Awakenings is to build community in our area, and I think we’ve done that over the past 12 years. My new focus involves community-enhancing living spaces, such as sustainable “agri-hoods” and co-housing. The key is that these spaces need to be affordable—and if the model is easily reproducible, so much the better. If you know about any communities like this starting up nearby, let us know. We’d love to spread the word. We’re always happy when readers send important news leads our way.

Be sure to read the inspirational healing articles and briefs starting on page 38: “Surgeon Mary Neal on Lessons From Heaven” about a transformative near-death experience; “Who Am I? Finding the Stillness Within,” by Cara Sax, owner of Elevate Yoga, in Cortlandt Manor; and “The Generous Heart: How Giving Transforms Us,” by Cindy Ricardo.

Wishing you all a joyful holiday season,


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