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  • On pain and how to handle it

    On the morning of Saturday, March 15, I woke up to shooting and stabbing pain down the right side of my neck, upper back and right arm. The pain encircled my ribs and was literally breathtaking.

    I figured I must have slept with my neck in a funny position and a little massage would relieve it. But there was no part of my neck and back that my visiting friend could touch without eliciting a howl from yours truly. So I called my acupuncturist and bodywork specialist Steve, who was kind enough to accommodate me on short notice. Although the session gave me some relief, I realized that this was a different beast than a simple stiff neck.

    Eventually, I found an experienced physical therapist/bodyworker based in San Rafael named Al Chan, whose deep knowledge of anatomy combined with his iron paws (I call his technique “Ow now, wow later”) helped put me on the mend.

    This article is not about the clinical course of my ailment, though. This is about (more…)

  • Book Club: “The Great Work of Your Life” + The Art of Love Tue April 1

    I’ve been meaning to write to you for a while now – lots to talk about. However, I’ve been laid up at home mostly immobile due to some mysterious neck and back issues. It’s getting better, and an article about how to deal with pain – both somatic and psychic – will almost certainly come out of it. Just not today – the muscle relaxant seems to relax all muscles, including the finger muscles and the brain muscle.

    In the meantime, I want to tell you about an upcoming seminar series and a couple of books I’ve been enjoying lately. Both books get sky-high 4.8/5.0 Amazon ratings, and for good reason.


    My friend and colleague Arielle Ford is putting on her Art of Love seminar series starting on Tuesday April 1. She’s got a fantastic roster of speakers lined up, including Katherine Woodward Thomas (author of Calling in the One), Dr John Gray, Deepak Chopra, the ever-wise Alison Armstrong and a whole bunch of stellar folks you should take the time to discover.

    Whether you’re in a relationship or not, these great teachers will be sharing ideas and tools for how to navigate love and have more of it in your life.

    Registration is free, and apparently you get three video interviews just for signing up. I encourage you to watch the one with Rev Dr Michael Bernard Beckwith. He’s one of my long-time mentors, and instrumental in my efforts to write The Tao of Dating at a time of great doubt and uncertainty in my life.

    Here’s the signup link: The Art of Love with Arielle Ford

    It’s totally free (unless you decide to buy stuff from them), yet somehow I receive a fee if you sign up through my link. Magic. All proceeds go to my physical therapy and muscle relaxant fund.


    Every once in a while a book comes along with such depth, power and grace that it hits me straight between the eyes. The Great Work of Your Life: A Guide for the Journey of Your True Calling is such a book. I finished it in two sittings, then re-read it to highlight and implement the important parts.

    Cope, whom I had never heard of before this book, has sterling credentials: psychotherapist of many decades, yoga scholar, and director of the Kripalu Center for Extraordinary Living. The book is about dharma – your true calling in life. He uses the story of the Bhagavad Gita to introduce the concept, then interweaves the lives of remarkable people to illustrate his points.

    If I had only read the stories of Harriet Tubman and Susan B Anthony, the book would have been worth it. But there’s also Thoreau, Gandhi, Jane Goodall and Walt Whitman. And a bunch more everyday heroes that you’ll want to know about. It’s an uplifting and wise book, appropriate for any age, since it’s never too late to find your true calling. Make sure you get the hard copy – you’ll want to come back to this again and again.

    The other book I want to tell you about is Kitchen Table Wisdom: Stories That Heal, by Dr Rachel Naomi Remen. Not only has Dr Remen been an oncologist and counselor for over 45 years, but she has also been a Crohn’s disease patient. As such, she brings great compassion to her observations of the suffering and triumph of her patients, colleagues and self. The book is a collection of brief stories (1-3 pages each), so you can start it anywhere you want, put it down, then pick it up later. It’s been very useful for me these past two weeks, and it’s sure to be a shot in the arm for you, too.

    That’s all for now. More books and observations to come. In the meantime, I’m grateful for your attention and support.

    All the best

    Dr Ali

  • On International Women’s Day: A thought, and 2 gifts to you

    I’m writing to you on a rainy morning in between meetings here in Austin as I attend the ever-lively SXSW Interactive Festival, so this will be brief. At first I was a little ambivalent about writing to you on International Women’s Day. Why? Because every day is Intergalactic Women’s Day, that’s why (kinda like Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Christmas — you catch my drift).

    However, recently I was reading a remarkable book — the next in the Dr Ali Book Club, incidentally — called The Great Work of Your Life: A Guide for the Journey of Your True Calling, by Stephen Cope. One of the great humans profiled in the book is Susan B. Anthony, the leader of the women’s suffrage movement here in the U.S. In it, there was a stark reminder of what it was like to be a woman in this great country not so long ago:

    The extent of women’s disempowerment during that era— their almost total subjugation to men— is hard for us to wrap our heads around. Women living in America in the mid-1800s were the legal property of their husbands. A married woman had no right to property, no right to buy and sell real estate in her own name, no right to bequeath any property whatsoever to an heir. A married woman of the time had no right even to her own children. And, needless to say, she had no right to the vote.

    As a result of her impoverished legal standing, a woman of that time lived in almost complete economic dependence upon her husband— or if she were “unfortunate” enough not to have a husband, upon her family. There were few roles for women outside the home. There was no social sphere in which women could come together to think and plan and dream on their own behalf. Indeed, outside the home women had very little independent existence whatsoever.

    As someone who instinctively flinches at gross injustice, I am thrilled to be living in a time when not only women can vote, but are coming to run the show more and more. As far as I’m concerned, all men are half woman (that would be the X chromosome), embryos start as female and then get hit by hormones that make them male (hence the vesitigial features on guys like nipples), and everyone comes out of a woman’s belly. Honoring women is not some special mode of thought requiring an -ism at the end; it’s just common sense.

    So, in honor of Common Sense Day, I’ve got a couple of things for you and/or your friends:

    1) I’m having two Kindle free days for my ebook Best Dating Advice I Ever Got 2 tomorrow Sun 3/9-Mon 3/10. Get it here if you haven’t already and tell a friend or twelve. Posting on your Facebook feed or tweeting it out to spread the love is always appreciated:

    2) I wrote “At the Swing of Midnight” to women everywhere; some of you may have seen it before. Feel free to share it with friends (with attribution, please). It’s a good birthday poem, but good on the other 364 days of the year, too:

    At the Swing of Midnight

    At the swing of midnight, on the day you were born,
    Three lightning bolts came together.
    The first, sinuous and long, said, “I shall make her graceful.”
    The second, jagged and strong, said, “I shall give her a mind
    That cuts into darkness like diamond.”
    The third, bright as a sun, said, “I shall give her radiance
    That warms and brightens all those around her.”

    As the three lightning bolts descended on the newborn,
    A fourth came along, so spectral and pale as to go unseen,
    And whispered: “I shall make her forget.”

    And so she walked the earth, oblivious to her gifts,
    Save when staring into a newborn’s endless eyes
    Or hearing a strain of music so pregnant with yearning
    As to have the weight of truth,
    Or when a dusty pilgrim would arrive from far away
    And cry, “Ave!,” with wild eyes that could see
    The goddess for the human that she was.
    – Ali Binazir

    That’s all, ladies. Gotta run!

    Go forth and conquer

    Dr Ali



  • How not to deal with a stalker: First story from “The Big Book of Bad Boyfriends”

    Many of you have expressed interest in contributing to the book project that I launched recently. In fact, some of you have already sent in stories! And they’re great!

    It’s the first time I’m doing a project like this, so nobody knows how it’s going to turn out. However, I am finding the idea of women offering love advice to women quite compelling. There are thousands of lifetimes of experience amongst you ladies, and it is well worth mining. I have a secret plan to turn all of you into professional writers, so I’m paying $40 for every story that gets published and $20 for every published story that you refer to me from someone else. Send ‘em! Check out the submission guidelines here and then give it your best shot.

    Part of the usefulness of these stories is to consider how you would have done things differently had you known better. This contribution from our good friend Rosie (of the epic email exchange) covers a lot of ground. Very curious to hear your thoughts in the comments section:

    “My first boyfriend and I had only been dating for the summer when the day after I moved into my dorm for my sophomore year, he dumped me out of the blue. Apparently I said “I love you” (more…)

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