Engage with Grace this Thanksgiving holiday

#EWG — A group of us bloggers have been conducting an Engage with Grace blog rally each Thanksgiving for the past four years, because it is a good time to be with family and talk turkey about end-of-life issues.
Here’s a summary
written by Alexandra Drane and the Engage With Grace team (with whom I worked during the first year of this initiative). Alex is co-founder of Eliza Corporation, a Boston based innovative healthcare company with patented speech recognition software that engages people in conversations about their behavior for better health. She is a dynamic thought leader and Engage with Grace is one of her initiatives. I am posting her words here in the hope that you read them, share with others and talk about your wishes with your family and close friends this Thanksgiving week. Whether you are young or older, healthy or not so healthy, the best time to plan with your friends or family is now, so that others know how you wish to be treated. It’s good for you and it’s a wonderful gift that you can give to those who will take care of you, because they will know your wishes and can carry them out in a loving manner and without any concern.

Occupy With Grace

Once again, this Thanksgiving we are grateful to all the people who keep this mission alive day after day: to ensure that each and every one of us understands, communicates, and has honored their end of life wishes.

Seems almost more fitting than usual this year, the year of making change happen. 2011 gave us the Arab Spring, people on the ground using social media to organize a real political revolution. And now, love it or hate it – it’s the Occupy Wall Street movement that’s got people talking.

Smart people (like our good friend Susannah Fox) have made the point that unlike those political and economic movements, our mission isn’t an issue we need to raise our fists about – it’s an issue we have the luxury of being able to hold hands about.


It’s a mission that’s driven by all the personal stories we’ve heard of people who’ve seen their loved ones suffer unnecessarily at the end of their lives.

It’s driven by that ripping-off-the-band-aid feeling of relief you get when you’ve finally broached the subject of end of life wishes with your family, free from the burden of just not knowing what they’d want for themselves, and knowing you could advocate for these wishes if your loved one weren’t able to speak up for themselves.

And it’s driven by knowing that this is a conversation that needs to happen early, and often. One of the greatest gifts you can give the ones you love is making sure you’re all on the same page. In the words of the amazing Atul Gawande, you only die once! Die the way you want. Make sure your loved ones get that same gift. And there is a way to engage in this topic with grace!

Here are the five questions, read them, consider them, answer them (you can securely save your answers at the Engage with Grace site), share your answers with your loved ones. It doesn’t matter what your answers are, it just matters that you know them for yourself, and for your loved ones. And they for you.


We all know the power of a group that decides to assemble. In fact, we recently spent an amazing couple days with the members of the Coalition to Transform Advanced Care, or C-TAC, working together to channel so much of the extraordinary work that organizations are already doing to improve the quality of care for our country’s sickest and most vulnerable.

Noted journalist Eleanor Clift gave an amazing talk, finding a way to weave humor and joy into her telling of the story she shared in this Health Affairs article. She elegantly sums up (as only she can) the reason that we have this blog rally every year:

For too many physicians, that conversation is hard to have, and families, too, are reluctant to initiate a discussion about what Mom or Dad might want until they’re in a crisis, which isn’t the best time to make these kinds of decisions. Ideally, that conversation should begin at the kitchen table with family members, rather than in a doctor’s office.

It’s a conversation you need to have wherever and whenever you can, and the more people you can rope into it, the better! Make this conversation a part of your Thanksgiving weekend, there will be a right moment, you just might not realize how right it was until you begin the conversation.

This is a time to be inspired, informed – to tackle our challenges in real, substantive, and scalable ways. Participating in this blog rally is just one small, yet huge, way that we can each keep that fire burning in our bellies, long after the turkey dinner is gone.

Wishing you and yours a happy and healthy holiday season. Let’s Engage with Grace together.

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To learn more about the ONE SLIDE PROJECT please go to http://www.engagewithgrace.org

PLEASE TWEET THIS so that others may learn about the One Slide Project at Engage with Grace. Use #EWG so that they can track the rally. THANK YOU!

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John Lennon

This PBS ‘American Masters’ Programme shows John Lennon’s life in NYC, the importance of his relationship with Yoko Ono and his role as a father and as an activist for peace.

He seemed to inject incredible energy into situations and was not only a musical genius but also a brave man who was outspoken and honest. He was always my favourite Beatle; now I can see why.

Watch the full episode. See more American Masters.


Following the breakup of the Beatles, Lennon and Ono moved to New York City in 1971, where Lennon sought to escape the mayhem of the Beatles era and focus on his family and private life. This American Masters’ film takes an intimate look at the time Lennon, Yoko Ono and their son, Sean, spent living in New York City during the 1970s.

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Things we are grateful for this year

For three years running now, many of us bloggers have participated in what we’ve called a “blog rally” to promote Engage With Grace – a movement aimed at making sure all of us understand, communicate, and have honored our end-of-life wishes.

The rally is timed to coincide with a weekend when most of us in the United States are celebrating Thanksgiving and are with the very people with whom we should be having these unbelievably important conversations – our closest friends and family.

At the heart of Engage With Grace are five questions designed to get the conversation about end-of-life started. We have included them at the end of this post. They are not easy questions, but they are important — and believe it or not, most people find they actually enjoy discussing their answers with loved ones. The key is having the conversation before it’s too late.

This past year has done so much to support our mission to get more and more people talking about their end-of-life wishes. We’ve heard stories with happy endings … and stories with endings that could have (and should have) been better. We have stared down political opposition. We have supported each other’s efforts. And we have helped make this a topic of national importance.

So in the spirit of the upcoming Thanksgiving weekend, we’d like to highlight some things for which we’re grateful.

Thank you to Atul Gawande for writing such a fiercely intelligent and compelling piece on “letting go”– it is a work of art, and a must read.

Thank you to whomever perpetuated the myth of “death panels” for putting a fine point on all the things we don’t stand for, and in the process, shining a light on the right we all have to live our lives with intent – right through to the end.

Thank you to TEDMED for letting us share our story and our vision.

And of course, thank you to everyone who has taken this topic so seriously, and to all who have done so much to spread the word, including sharing The One Slide.

We share our thanks with you, and we ask that you share this slide with your family, friends, and followers. Know the answers for yourself, know the answers for your loved ones, and appoint an advocate who can make sure those wishes get honored – it’s something we think you’ll be thankful for when it matters most.

Here’s to a holiday filled with joy – and as we engage in conversation with the ones we love, we engage with grace.

The above post was written by Alexandra Drane and the Engage With Grace team. Please feel free to join our blog rally by copying this post and putting it on your own blog for this holiday weekend.

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To learn more about the ONE SLIDE PROJECT please go to http://www.engagewithgrace.org

To read a recent interview with Alexandra Drane click this link to the Forbes magazine article

PLEASE TWEET THIS so that others may learn about the One Slide Project at Engage with Grace. THANK YOU! Carole Brown.

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Henry Dakin, a remarkable man

I met Henry last December and enjoyed New Year’s Eve with him, family and friends in the depth of a Redwood forest in northern California. Those treasured memories will be with me forever.

As his obituary states, Henry Dakin was a truly humble man. Many of his friends did not know the full extent of his contributions to others and to society until they read his obituary or attended his memorial service in San Francisco last weekend.

I am writing about him here on Thought Leaders because, to me, Henry Dakin encapsulates many or maybe all of the qualities that make a great leader in the era in which we now live: innovation, creativity, intelligence, curiosity, compassion, conscience, generosity of spirit, belief in others, awareness of our relationship with the environment, strength of character and a moral compass.

He created a wonderful legacy and his inspirational spirit will be felt for a long time to come. I feel blessed that I met him and can introduce you to him today.

Henry Dakin’s Obituary in the San Francisco Chronicle

PhotoHenry Saltonstall Dakin 1936 – 2010
Henry Dakin died peacefully at home surrounded by family in Ukiah, California on August 25th at age 73.
A fourth generation Californian, Henry helped creative individuals realize their uncommon dreams by sharing his skills and resources to support their innovative for-profit and not-for-profit organizations. His boundless curiosity, indefatigable industry and selfless service inspired countless people.  He leaves a prodigious and enduring legacy of visionary philanthropy, humility, kindness, and immense generosity.

Henry grew up in  Pasadena, California, and graduated from Harvard University in  1958. During the 1960’s, he did research in health physics at Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory and designed a pocket radiation detector that is still in use today.
Devastating tragedy befell him in 1966 when he lost seven family members in a plane crash, among them his father Richard and brother Roger, who founded the Dakin Toy Company. During the 1970s, Henry’s protean interests in consciousness, parapsychology, computer technology, and environmental conservation generated leading-edge projects at his Washington Street offices in Pacific Heights in San Francisco. His love of printing led him to explore early innovations in desktop publishing and many other publishing ventures: he wrote a book on Kirlian photography, published religious documents smuggled from Soviet political prisons in the “Samizdat Bulletin” and a major guide to doing business in Moscow. Henry’s deep concern over the escalating arms race grew in the 1980s, and resulted in his increasing support to many activist groups that were pioneering novel forms of citizen diplomacy such as Esalen’s Soviet-American Exchange Program. Ever-expanding activities required more space, so Henry transformed an auto-body shop at 3220 Sacramento Street into a unique office complex, multi-media and cultural networking center for citizen activists to hold public and private events.
Over the decades, Henry incubated an astonishing number and variety of fledgling non-profit groups, providing them with technical support, funding, and office and living space. Some are now well-established groups such as Internews, United Nations Association of San Francisco, Institute for Global Communications, Presidio Alliance, San Francisco Global Business Council, Association for Space Explorers, Link TV, and Bioneers.
Self-effacing, Henry shunned publicity, yet was a truly remarkable cultural ambassador, peacemaker, and global communications pioneer. >>>>
TO READ THE COMPLETE OBITUARY GO TO Henry Dakin’s Obituary by San Francisco Chronicle

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6 Surprising Things That Affect Your Brain

As someone who is fascinated by brain function and who knows that we can change because our brain can change (re-wiring = neuroplasticity), I enjoyed this article that I found posted on care2.com’s site.

6 Surprising Things That Affect Your Brain by Jon Spayde, Experience Life
posted on care2.com by Megan, selected from Experience Life Nov 8, 2010 5:12

Brain scientists in recent years have discovered a number of surprising ways that the brain influences our overall health, as well as how our behavior influences the health of our brain. And unlike in the days of old — when scientists believed the brain was “fixed” after childhood, only to start an inexorable decline in the middle to later years — today, research is showing that the brain is perfectly capable of changing, healing and “rewiring” itself to an unexpected degree.

It turns out that the age of your brain may be a lesser influence on its structure than what you do with it. Pursuits that require intense mental focus, like language learning, “switch on” the nucleus basalis, the control mechanism for neuroplasticity.

In short, neuroplasticity means you have some control over your cranial fitness. While brain function naturally deteriorates somewhat as you age (though not nearly as much as you might think), various strategic approaches can create new neural pathways and strengthen existing ones as long as you live. What’s more, these efforts to build a better brain can deliver lasting rewards for your overall health.

Here are just a few of neuroscience’s most empowering recent discoveries….. >>> go to care2.com to read the full article

Care2.com is a fascinating green publication. In the CEO’s own words ……
Welcome!   I started Care2, back in 1998, to help make the world a better place. The idea is simple: Make it easy for everyone to live a healthy, green lifestyle and impact the causes they care about most. …… Randy Paynter

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Beyond Darwin

When I think of thought leaders, Dr Bruce Lipton appears at the top of my list. I met Bruce in Sedona in 2003 at a conference (more later *) and being still a biologist at heart, I found his work totally inspiring. He challenges our understanding of science and invites us to  break through boundaries in our ways of thinking and in our belief systems.

Here’s an introduction to his work in a video taken at the Omega Institute. If you’d like to see others, comment below and I’ll add some more of my favorites.

* Conference by the Holographic Repatterning Institute led by Chloe Wordsworth, another world class thought leader, whom I shall write about soon.

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Is ‘Just Leadership’ a woman’s role?

“All over the Western world today organizations by the hundreds, large and small, that are trying to bring about a more just, peaceful, and ecologically harmonious social order, are heavily female in composition.”
Riane Eisler

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Monthly quote APRIL 2010

“In the coming years we will have to move thirteen of the major twenty coastal cities uphill, and we will have to do it collaboratively.”
Elisabet Sahtouris
(from LIM News at http://www.limglobal.net/readings/publi_archives.html)

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kd Lang – an inspiration

Ever since I read about K D Lang in ‘All you Get is Me’ I have been inspired by this woman whose integrity is of the highest calibre.
Last night as I sat with friends at their home east of San Francisco and watched the Opening Ceremony of the 21st Winter Olympic Games in Vancouver, I had no idea that I was to be yet again stunned by the incredible voice of this legendary artist. As she sang Hallelujah, a song written by fellow Canadian, Leonard Cohen, the huge crowd were stunned into silence.

On waking this morning, the memory of the night before beckoned me to search for a recording of her performance. On the web I found several interviews that I had never seen of KD on British TV and I added these as favourite’s on my youtube channel (you can find these by going to my sister blog ‘YesWeCan Journey’ and then selecting the Youtube link).
I also discovered that Google had received more searches for KD’s performance at the Olympics than anything else. Thousands of people were looking for her recording. After much perseverance, including finding it at some sites where it had been later removed due to copyright, I located the official NBC version (I’m writing this in the great United States of America).

You can view KD’s rendition of Hallelujah by going to http://bit.ly/cXDXN0

If you would like to be even more inspired by her philosophy on life, you can view some interviews with KD under my favourites on my youtube channel. There you’ll see a selection that I made from those available. Like the ‘No Impact Man’, whom you will also find there, KD Lang is a prime example of leadership in a world where many people have lost their connection to nature and their spirit.


[For my favourite’s on youtube: go to http://www.youtube.com/user/YesWeCanCamperVan?feature=mhum#g/f ]

P.S. The most amazing interview is on PBS (PBS = public broadcasting service in America, a bit like the BBC.  Ernie Manouse has a wonderfully intelligent interview style. Find his interview with kd Lang on his PBS show called “Inner Views with Ernie Manouse”.

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A spiritual solution to leadership in crisis

As one interested in mind/body science, I’ve always enjoyed reading Deepak Chopra. Today one of my friends on Facebook drew my attention to a recent interview about his views on leadership.
Here’s an excerpt that caught my eye, where  he talks about the foundation of leadership as a spiritual quest….

“The more expanded your awareness is, the more you can see yourself as part of the web of relationships that constitute life, then the more contextually you see things, the more you are likely to have intuitive and creative and visionary and sacred responses instead of the fight/flight or reactive response that we see amongst our leaders today.”

Chopra says that most leadership is a function of fight/flight or reactive ego responses, because leaders have not been taught to respond from a higher or soul level. “Our educational system does not nurture the psychological, emotional and spiritual development of children or human beings so that studies show that the average male in most societies stops growing emotionally after the age of fourteen.”

Excerpt of an interview of Deepak Chopra by Mandy de Waal.
To see the full article, go to http://spinspanner.com/2009/06/spirits-in-a-material-world/

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