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For Your Well Being: Good Times in Wisconsin

July 26, 2007, Vol. V Issue 15

Dear Friends,

Whew! I’ve had a busy week since returning from the National Wellness Conference. I’ve barely had time to catch up, let alone get my thoughts together about what to put in this e-news so I’m just going to tell it like it was (for me) and share some observations and tidbits.

Any conference is a personal experience – we’re altogether yet all apart, putting the information and experience through our individual screens. “Ah-ha!” moments are there for those who are awake – in the hallways in between sessions, over toothpaste in the communal dorm bathrooms (the best!), over a salad bar of head lettuce and scraps of spinach — if your timing is good — wherever we show up. Sometimes, those moments even happen in sessions. We make connections with new ways of seeing and — CLICK. Or it may be an accumulation of exposures, nothing specific. CLICK. Life is different. You don’t want to return to things the way they were. Isn’t that what it’s all about?

Some Speaker Highlights from NWI. . .

From Well-Crafted to Rambling and Back Again

As you all know, I’m a speaker junkie, so I’m not just looking at or hearing the speaker, I’m evaluating the speaker’s draw and the content they deliver — their style, their craft, their humor and their message – lots of parameters, deliverables, if you will.

Fern Carness, RN, MPH

At this conference, we got to see a lot of speaker styles and I appreciate the fact that speakers are invited for various reasons. In fact, I make it my business to discern what that’s all about. From my point of view, Fern Carness’ Sunday night opening keynote, “The Tyranny of Health Promotion: Confessions of a Wellness Queen,” did everything an opening keynote should. It set the tone — camaraderie for this conference — and challenged attendees to question the status quo. It moved right along — her Power Point was illustrative, not didactic, and we laughed long and hearty.

It was an honor for Fern to be asked to give NWI’s Legacy Talk, which highlights exceptional leaders and pioneers in health promotion. She started her career as a critical care nurse with heart operations part of her daily routine. In that setting, she observed something she thought should not be routine: the return of the repeat offenders. What about prevention, she thought. What about behavior modification? In 1985, frustrated with this lack of focus on health promotion and disease prevention in the acute care setting, she founded Wellness At Work, a company dedicated to health promotion and wellness. Integrating her clinical and business backgrounds, she designed and implemented programs that transition from the Medical Model to the Wellness Model. She wrote two self-help audio programs; “Ready Set Stop: How to Quit Quitting,” a smoking cessation program, and “Sell Well: Wellness Skills for Peak Performance,” and the Wellness Councils of America’s best-selling book on corporate health fairs, “Health Fairs for Your Wealth Fair.” She was also the content developer of several internet health improvement programs, as well as a speaker, trainer, and consultant.

As was evident in her presentation, she’s been around the wellness world long enough to claim the title of Wellness Queen. The audience laughed along with her as she poked fun at herself while telling the truth, including the sobering honesty of her journey with breast cancer. To cap things off, the program ended on a high note – with Fern and friends signing (American sign language) to the song, “For Good,” from the musical, “Wicked.”

To illustrate here’s a verse:

“I’ve heard it said that people come into our lives for a reason.
Bringing something we must learn and we are led to those who help us most to grow if we let them.
And we help them in return.
Well, I don’t know if I believe that’s true. But I know I’m who I am today because I knew you.”

It was a meaningful, beautiful ending to her stirring speech, to which the audience responded with a long standing ovation. Better yet, were the hugs, taps on the shoulder and thanks she received throughout the week.


Candace Pert, PhD

On the other hand, Monday morning, respected researcher and author, Dr. Candace Pert’s talk, “How to Feel Good,” was hard to track and did not match the description in the program of the keynote talk. Some people walked away disappointed. Then again, we were in the presence of a scientific icon — world-changing brilliance – and a big breakthrough which was eventually revealed.

Dr. Pert is best known for her opiate receptor, endorphin and peptide research. Her work is based on how the bodymind functions as a single psychosomatic network of information molecules which control our health and physiology. Her new book Everything You Need to Know to Feel Go(o)d is a journey into how mind, body, and spirit are inseparable. She also wrote the groundbreaking, best-selling book, Molecules of Emotion: the Science Behind Mindbody Medicine, published in 1997. She is currently Scientific Director of RAPID Pharmaceuticals where she is developing Peptide T, a therapeutic for treatment of HIV. She is a former Research Professor at Georgetown University School of Medicine and Section Chief at the National Institute of Mental Health.

After years of researching the function of classical immune cell receptors, Dr. Pert, along with her partner, Dr. Michael Ruff, have developed the first of a new class of treatments for HIV/AIDS, the viral entry inhibitor Peptide T.  She and Dr.  Ruff broke from traditional protocols and have  worked steadfastly to prove the effectiveness of their approach. The antibodies produced in their research have been called the “holy grail” of AIDS vaccine research. The thought of actually eradicating HIV/AIDS from the planet is one that has long been thought an impossible dream.  Peptide T effectively blocks the virus from binding to the receptor on the white blood cell, leaving the virus with no means to reproduce and sustain itself in a host.

Just days before coming to the conference, she received word that they’ve received funding for the vaccine program. When she got around to telling us that, her joy was unmitigated and contagious. The audience rose in hearty applause. She is finally realizing her dream – decades of commitment to looking outside of the box are paying off big. In the presence of such life-saving news, most everyone in the room was willing to forgive the rambling. It was a cutting edge moment.

The Honorable Mike Huckabee

And swinging the pendulum back toward a well-organized speech, Mike Huckabee, former Arkansas Governor and Chairman of the National Governor’s Association, delivered a keynote Tuesday afternoon on the “Future of Medical and Health Care,” that was in alignment with the conference theme of “Creating and Sustaining Wellness Cultures.” He has turned his personal triumph over Type II diabetes (he lost over 100 pounds) into a national campaign for healthier living. Citing his own cultural obstacles and experiences with yo-yo dieting, he said his success came when he focused on being healthy, not on losing weight.

Noting an epidemic of chronic disease, he said we are spending 17% of GNP in the US on healthcare and that will be 20% by 2015, with much of that disease stemming from the avoidance of the elements of wellness.

But he shared a critical observation gleaned from years of participation in public life: such a shift depends on more than telling people the truth and reminding them about what they ought to be doing to create wellness. It will require a long time and a continuous dedication to making the shift.

“We need to change from a nation that is desperately sick to one that is wholesomely healthy,” he acknowledged. Then he got to the point. “For that to happen,” he said carefully, “it’s going to take a generation because it’s going to take a cultural shift.” He specified three steps to cultural shift:

1) Attitude change
2) Atmosphere change
3) Action

When he discussed action, he encouraged individuals and communities to get involved at the local level, noting that in this area government can’t force the change. Government only codifies into law what has already become behavioral change. Its action is effective only at the end of the cycle.

This is just a sampling of the thoughts he shared (if you’re really interested, you can order a recording of this and most of the other talks from ). While he quoted plenty of facts and figures, he didn’t use any PowerPoint and he did use lots of humor. And if you’re wondering if he sounded like a smooth politician, my opinion is yes, and while I didn’t agree with everything he said, I liked him anyway, and it was a great speech!

From Sacred Circle Dance to The Art of Exotic Dance

In addition to all of the educational opportunities, I think one of the things that makes this conference unique, is the multitude of opportunities to try new things. Wellness activities included everything from Sandy Queen’s line dancing classes to David Roth’s “Instant Angelic Choir: Singing for Everyone.” (By the way, this must be a popular class because when it was time for their performance in the talent show, it seemed like half the audience headed for the stage).

In Personal Enhancement Time breakout sessions, I thoroughly enjoyed a relaxing, meditative hour and a half of Sacred Circle Dance (I even bought the CD and book so I can share it with others). In another session I learned about and drew a Mandala. There were so many intriguing topics – you could learn to play the native American flute or discover your personal mission statement, just to name a couple of other choices.

The conference was also a time for speakers to try out new things. Rarely does a speaker surprise me, especially a speaker I’ve worked with for over a decade. But this time Dr. Deborah Kern did it. As she stares 50 in the face, she has proved that she can, indeed, re-invent herself, and, as always, she’s willing to share what she’s learning with others.

In a session titled, “The Exotic Way: Healing Through Awakening the Divine Feminine,” Deb shared the art of exotic dancing as a transformative healing tool. And was it ever an awakening – the laughter and the joy in that room was exhilarating, and it transferred into the hallways afterward. But before the dancing began, Deb, ever the health scientist, put the whole idea of awakening the Divine Feminine into cultural perspective using Robert Keck’s Deep-value Research. It examines the current patriarchal, spiritually adolescent values of our times that are dying so that more mature values such as partnership of the genders can be born.

According to Webster’s Dictionary, the word exotic means “strikingly, mysteriously unique.”  Deb helped the women understand that each one of us is exotic. She said that exotic dancing is a way of accessing natural sensuality. This type of access to your authentic self makes possible a peaceful power and confidence that enables women to connect with anyone and attract others. Exotic dancing is much more than dancing sexy. The women left with a heightened confidence and profound appreciation for what is possible for all women.

Deb is passionate about sharing this message because as women reconnect with the unique feminine aspect of their essence, they awaken their inherent divine feminine power. This awakening is important not only for healing of women, but for the healing of the planet. When the divine feminine is no longer revered, competition, judgment, and rationality become the fueling factors. The needs for relatedness, feeling, sensuality or attending to nature go unheeded. There is no balance, and there is harmony neither within oneself nor in the external world.  You’ll be hearing more about this . . .

Attention on Important Things is Easy When You’re Having Fun

Another great thing about the wellness conference is that they never let you have time to realize there’s no television in your room. That’s because there’s always something going on from early morning exercise programs to after dinner activities and entertainment including concerts, drumming, dancing, and on the last night, a talent show. In fact, it wasn’t until toward the end of the week, I realized I had been on an undeclared news fast. I didn’t miss it a bit – there wasn’t time!

Jana Stanfield gave a rousing keynote concert on Monday night – “Say Yes to Your Destiny.” I’ve heard Jana many, many times and this was all new material – tales from her world travels in Africa and India and her recent debut on the dating scene had everyone in stitches, while she encouraged us all to overcome our own obstacles. Of course, it was interlaced with her popular music. You don’t get asked back as many times as Jana has performed at the wellness conference without wowing them everytime!

And on Tuesday night, Zonya Foco, RD, took us on a journey  – “Connection vs. Convenience: A Fun Look At Where Our Food Culture Has Been and Where It’s Going.” Along with her demonstrations, which are always colorful, effective, and literally unforgettable, she shared some astounding statistics about the Big Guns in the food artillery and their humongous advertising budgets. It’s no wonder there’s an obesity problem with the amount of brainwashing that is aimed at us daily.

My apologies to all the friends, speakers and colleagues I didn’t mention here.  I’m very excited about next year’s conference theme: “A Visionary Turning: Well Earth, Well People” –July 12 – 19, 2008. It’s a good time right now, to start planning to attend . . . maybe we’ll see you there next year?

Until next time, be good to yourself for your good health and those you love.

Yours truly in good health,


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