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The Healing Power of Stones

Since I first began Fifth Element Beads, my aesthetic goal has been to design jewelry made from my hand made clay beads and accented with simple beautiful stones. At first I selected stones based on their visual appeal. But, soon I found out that customers were more interested in metaphysical properties of stones. One friend, a recovering alcoholic, requested amethyst, also known as the “sobriety stone”. Another friend was looking for onyx as a traditional 7th anniversary gift and because she also knew onyx can transform negative energy into positive energy. When I realized how important it was to my customers to choose their stones mindfully and with deep intention, it was time for me to embark on yet another educational journey – this time to gain a deeper understanding of stones.

My first stop in learning about the metaphysical properties of stones was Brian Robertshaw – my bead guru. Brian is the owner of Beadniks in Brattleboro, VT and an extremely knowledgeable bead historian. My first question for Brian was “How did human beings begin attributing metaphysical properties to various stones?”. I was astounded to find out that the connection between specific stones and their metaphysical properties can be traced so far back in history that it is near impossible to discover their origin.

One thing that I learned through the MALT program at TGI is the incredible power of human intention. We may not, at this moment in time, have scientific data that proves rose quartz can bring love into your life. However, over several centuries and across many different cultures, humans have attached a powerful and universal intention of love to this particular stone. That is what I believe accounts for the magic I see happen when a customer puts on a rose accented bracelet and carries on that universal and timeless intention of love.

As some of us get ready to begin a new school year, why not go into it with some powerful intentions and stones to support those intentions? Here is a brief guide on just a few stones (pictured) and their metaphysical properties:

1 HOWLITE is very common and naturally is a white opaque and chalky stone with beautiful gray and black marbling. Because of howlite’s ability to hold color, it is often dyed a teal blue and called “Chinese Turquoise”. Howlite is a calming stone that can help with stress and anxiety.

2 CORAL , along with shells, was one of the earliest materials used to create beads. Coral can naturally occur in a range of orange and reds but is often enhanced to brighten its color when used in jewelry. Coral brings peace and facilitates intuition.

3 TIGEREYE is found all over the world and has been used by people in various cultures for centuries because of both its beauty and its metaphysical properties. It is a shiny brown stone with marbling in golds, yellows, and reds. It was named tigereye due to its visual resemblance to the actual eye of a tiger. This stone is great to have to overcome obstacles, take action and access one’s own power. I have also had customers who use this stone to help them get through tough mercury retrograde periods.

4 CARNELIAN is a personal favorite. Carnelian is a translucent stone that comes in a range of oranges. It has beautiful color naturally without any enhancement. Carnelian is the stone of true creative expression. I have heard that the pop star, Adele, will not step on stage to perform without carnelian on her person.

5 ROSE QUARTZ is all about love. Even if you know very little about stones, you might know that rose quartz is associated with love and has been since as far back as historians can trace. Quartz, in general, is known as “the all purpose stone”. Any kind of quartz is good to have and there are several types. However, if you are looking to bring more love into your life, rose quartz is the stone to have.

6 LAVA ROCK is a good stone to utilize when you are feeling a need to connect more with nature. Lava rock helps us become more rooted to the earth. Additionally, lava rock is a porous stone that is ideal for holding essential oils which makes it a very popular stone for beads.

7 LEPIDOLITE is a lesser known stone but is actually quite common. Lepidolite is known as the stone of transition. It often helps us to overcome emotional troubles that tend to accompany times of significant transition.

Ingrid Baron is the owner of

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WOT Colleagues Publish First Volume of Creative Writing Series on

What does it mean to “Live the Writer’s Life”?

To find out, ten strangers formed a writing cohort, came up with an audacious plan to write and publish and book together, and created “Where the Words Await…Walking the Writer’s Path”.

In this first-ever collection of writings by colleagues from TGI’s Writing and Oral Traditions Program, ten authors gather their best fiction and non-fiction pieces and add insights and musings about the writer’s craft. They formed Ten Scribblers Press, an independent publishing company, to distribute their work before a world-wide readership on the platform. This book is Volume One in The Graduate Institute Creative Writer’s Series.

According to Publishing Center Director Robin Moore, “This is much more than a student project. Instead of waiting for the gatekeepers of the mainstream publishing industry to smile on them and accept or reject their work, these writers formed their own publishing company and launched their own literary ship under the flag of Ten Scribblers Press. They are not alone. They have joined thousands of emerging writers who make up the rowdy ranks of the Indie Publishing Movement, a bold departure from traditional publishing which is changing the literary landscape of contemporary American culture.”

where the words awaitWhat is this book all about?

Consider these words from the Introduction:

“The structure of Where the Words Await… might remind you of a multi-author, modern version of Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales: a bunch of ragtag folks meet at the beginning of their spiritual pilgrimage and decide to have a storytelling contest on the way. In the space of the story, each pilgrim shares not only the best story they’ve got, but a little about what drives and challenges them on their writing journey. There may be some conversation between the storytellers and the stories; but, for the most part, each story stands on its own and carries its own significance. In order to allow for this kind of conversation, the book is divided into sections by author. Each chapter features a piece of poetry, fiction, memoir, or essay alongside a small offering from its author that contemplates what unsettles or inspires them in regard to writing. The authors’ voices mix with those of their pieces, and all of these weave together to create a larger narrative about the creative process.

“We intend that Where the Words Await… will engage future generations of continuing or aspiring writers in seeing that, though the writing process is messy and difficult, it is ultimately rewarding and accessible to all willing to grapple with its darker parts. This collection invites readers to find and successfully live their version of a writer’s life: not by telling them what to do, but by letting them live the experiences of other writers trying to find a “way into” writing. Your path will not look exactly like any of those presented in these pages—nor should it. Even so, we have found in our own writing community that it can be helpful to hear many opinions and ideas about what the best avenue is to writing and becoming an author.

“This book could be a small part of you discovering what works for you: or, even better, what doesn’t. Either way, we hope this book wakes you up to your own truth. We invite you to dip into the Quick Start Guide we have included at the end of this book as a way of jump-starting your own writing process. We have come to believe, in co-creating this book, that the writing process is a series of small awakenings. Like walking a labyrinth, our paths lead us deep into the center of own writing practices and beliefs, only to send us back to the outer rings again. It is easy for us to lose our confidence during those times, but equally possible to gain insights that enable us to break through barriers and conquer self-doubt.

“This book is proof that having an encouraging community of creators behind us is key to unlocking powerful narratives and writing through resistance. After all, the writers featured in this volume had enormous help and support from one another, as provided by the structure of our M.A. Program at The Graduate Institute.”

Members of the Writing and Oral Traditions Cohort

This book was created by members of the Writing and Oral Traditions Cohort 19-01:
Paul David Adkins, Pamela Briddle, Kyla DeRisi, Larry DiBernardo, Caren Goodhue, Sarah Gretzky, Cheryl Riello, Ann Sullivan, Tess Torrey and Rick Hribko.

To read learn more about this book and about The Graduate Institute Publishing Center, visit

Always wanted to write and publish a book?

We are now calling for manuscripts created by cohorts and individual authors. Thanks to TGI’s affiliation with Amazon, we can now offer first-time authors an affordable and user-friendly approach to publishing.

The resources of the Publishing Center are available free of charge to any TGI graduate, current colleague and faculty member. To find out how The Center can assist you in bringing your writing dreams to fruition, contact TGI Publishing Center Director Robin Moore via email:

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Respecting The Comma

While this author’s colleagues discussed the intricacies of the editing process during a weekend session of the Writing and the Oral Traditions cohort, he attended his youngest daughter’s high school graduation. Of course, any parent worth the title would make himself available for this momentous event. But this student would like to examine the event of graduation from an editorial point of view.

As a college composition instructor, every semester this author repeatedly must explain the proper function and use of the punctuation mark The Comma. It is The Comma which tends to confound his students throughout the course, either English Composition or Research and Composition. And no amount of explanation can fully eradicate the fallacies of The Comma’s raison d’etre. The mark has no phonetic purpose; it is used to divide elements of the sentence for the sake of clarity.

The sentence “Let’s eat Grandma” provides adequate reason for writers to respect the value of The Comma. Indeed, omitting this mark has grave consequences for all involved, not the least of whom are cannibalistic relatives. If only the author had known the dangers! If only he had understood beforehand the criticality of The Comma in relation to direct address. It is the difference between eating dinner versus eating the cook, an hour of sated sleep versus a lifetime in Attica. If only the writer had known!

So, what does The Comma have to do with graduation? Everything, and nothing. The Comma, well placed, serves in the same fashion as a nail which fixes the frame to the wall; no one can see it until it fails. The punctuation mark is similar to a competent umpire in baseball: the fans will not notice him until he makes a mistake. Then, the hats come off, the dirt flies, the benches empty in anger, or, at the very least, confusion. The coach is heard yelling, “What do you mean there’s no comma separating two independent clauses separated by a conjunction?!” Or later, “The Oxford comma is TOO necessary to clarify and properly separate items in a list! What is wrong with you?”

Alas, this author’s students consistently bring the proverbial knife-to-a-gunfight argument to The Comma debate. “My high school teacher said . . .,” this author can hear in his dreams, “a comma is used to create a pause.” No, a caesura creates a pause. A breath creates a pause. The Comma may form a pause in the reader’s mind, but its purpose is to clarify the essay. When one writes, “We saw the strippers Putin and Trump,” hopefully the reader senses a vague feeling of nausea at the thought of these two decrepit dictators shimmying up a silver pole, casting smoldering glances at the balding men nursing their flat Budweisers, fingering their grimy dollar bills. Meanwhile, with the help of The Comma, the reader can see the strippers, Putin, and Trump all lounging at the bar, discussing hotel arrangements after a long night’s work.

I saw my daughter’s graduation The Comma and it was a beautiful occasion. I love my daughter The Comma and I have never been more proud of her achievements. I raised my daughter for this event to form a comma in her life, a separation between child and adult, apprentice and journeywoman, this and that. The Comma which divides us, my daughter and I, also connects us as she slowly advances along her own way, to her own place, in her own time. It is The Comma which forms the bonds necessary for us to call each other, and to tell each other stories, dozens of years ahead. It is The Comma, that tiny screw, which upholds the chair on which we sit together, flowers in her hand, as she tells me she loves me this night, and 18 years of nights before. The Comma, driven into the sentence of this moment with the very weight of our lives. My daughter The Comma I, and our future stretching left, and, to our right The Comma the past.

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The Invention of Grandparents: Exploring the Origins of Multi-Generational Storytelling

Igniting the Imagination

It began with fire.

Our distant human-like ancestors mastered the primal technology of fire-making more than a million years ago. Even when we were a nomadic people on the African plains, fire gave us a gathering place against the dark of night. Fire gave us a sense of comfort and safety. The flames were our best defense against the threat of animals bigger and stronger than us. We could cook food, aiding us in developing our big brains.

Fire became a technology that helped us shaped the landscape and a tool for regulating the rhythm of dark and light in our lives. We clustered around the glowing embers under the star-sprinkled sky. Uncounted eons slipped by.

By 100,000 years ago, our species, Homo Sapiens, was able to think in symbols and create the first artwork: Ritual burial and decorated objects of bone and stone and antler. We crawled deep into caves and painted our animal dreams on the rough stone walls. We communicated with gestures, facial expressions and body language.

By 40,000 years ago, thanks to an evolutionary re-wiring of the brain, the gift of spoken language allowed us to think in abstract symbols and to convey vibrant images to another person through the spoken word. Image-ination was born.

The Grandmother Hypothesis

But we had a problem. There were few elders. Average life expectancy was barely 30. Many of us died in childbirth or perished from the rigors of living in the open. For our species, thirty is the magic number, because that is the age when a woman could conceivably have a daughter who could then have a child, making the elder woman a grandmother. For most, this never happened. A few of us managed to live to be 70 years old. But this was such a rare occurrence that it had no significant impact on the culture.

Then, due to improved living conditions, something happened that changed the fabric of human life forever: We saw the emergence of a new strata of society that had never existed before. Some researchers call this amazing demographic shift “The Grandmother Hypothesis”.

Anthropologists Dr. James Adovasio and Dr. Olga Soffer tell the fascinating story in their ground-breaking book, The Invisible Sex: Uncovering the True Roles of Women in Prehistory.

They write,

“In the late Paleolithic about 30,000 years ago, about the same time as the Creative Revolution in Europe, there was a sudden four-fold increase in the number of adults old enough to be grandparents. Rachel Caspari of the University of Michigan and Sang-Hee Lee of the University of California at Riverside have identified a sudden leap in the number of people surviving to older age by studying the rates of molar wear. The sudden increase in the number of surviving elders contributed importantly to population expansion and cultural innovations and may have contributed to an early version of the recent information explosion, with older people’s long memories serving as living repositories of useful information.”

Family groups who were able to add grandmothers and grandfathers to their circle gained an enormous advantage. This extra set of hands, knowledgeable and skilled in the details of daily living, freed parents to focus on the tasks of gathering resources needed for the survival of the family while offering childcare for those old enough to leave their mother’s breast.

For the first time, a significant number of individuals were living long enough (and had enough useful experience) to bundle their accumulated wisdom and knowledge into a compact, durable package: the spoken story. Before the advent of the written word, the vast weight of cultural knowledge, memory and insight was carried forward through the generations by the oral tradition.

We are Wired for Story

As we sat around the fire at night, our grandmothers and grandfathers encoded the legacy of our culture into stories so compelling that these tales would certainly be repeated and passed along to the next generation. The cosmology and spiritual life of the people was anchored by these stories. Cultural information that did not make it into a story might very well perish with the individual; whatever was embedded in our stories had a far better chance of enduring to nurture the next generation.

In the brain, cells that fire together wire together. Our love of stories was forged by the sound of the grandparents’ voice, whispering into our young ears on those primordial nights by the fireside.

But that is not the end of the story. The invention of grandparents proved to be one of our most successful societal innovations. In modern times, grand parenting remains a mainstay of family life. Because life expectancy has steadily increased, there are more grandparents than ever. Back when the U.S. was founded, average life expectancy was 35. (We had only gained a scant 5 years since Paleolithic times!) By the turn of the century, it jumped to 47. Today it is 78.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, in Civil War times, the number of U.S. adults over the age of 65 was 3 percent of the national population. Today it is 15 percent. By 2050, the Census Bureau predicts the number will climb to 22 percent. Here’s an interesting factoid: In the next four years, for the first time in human history, the number of people over the age of 65 will exceed the number of children under the age of 5.

The Age of Grandparents

We are living in The Age of Grandparents (and great-grandparents). Soon many of us will be slipping into the ancestral role of the elder storyteller, if we have not already. Despite the many advances in information technology, the majority of teaching, learning and human bonding still takes place in the form of spoken language. Even as the many blessings of the written, broadcast and digital world surrounding us with their versions of modern-day storytelling, a part of us still longs to sit by the fire and hear the voices of The Old Ones, speaking to us in The Language of the Dream.

If this makes sense to you, you might ask:

“How do we modern-day storytellers add to this ancestral river of images, flowing from the human tongue to the waiting ear?”

The answer is astonishing in its power and simplicity:

All we need to remember is the most important question any human can ask another.

We ask: “Would you like to hear a story?”

If the listener agrees, the ancient contract is signed and the human journey continues…

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