A New Chapter: Nexus for Consciousness, Healing and HopeJan 31, 2023 ● By Brooke Goode
In 1994, the same year Jeff Bezos founded Amazon and Deepak Chopra laid the first bricks on his path to enlightenment, Sharon Bruckman created Natural Awakenings magazine. Each a visionary. Each ahead of their time.
By the late 1990s Americans had developed a voracious appetite for well-researched, practical information about the latest natural approaches to nutrition, fitness, personal growth and sustainable living. The Natural Awakenings franchise was born, expanding into the largest franchise publishing network in the health and wellness industry.
As the magazine's 25th anniversary issue, published in 2019, explained, Natural Awakenings was woven from the threads of grit, inspiration and serendipity, creating a tapestry of health, healing and mindfulness. In an interview appearing in that issue, Bruckman clarified her purpose, saying, "The why that has been keeping me ‘on purpose’ can be found in the same mission statement that inspired me to create Natural Awakenings: to inspire and empower people to awaken to their highest potential, so together we can create a world that works for all living things.”
The world's delicate ecosystem, now in crisis, was also in need of help. "The critical issues we now address in Natural Awakenings—like genetically modified foods and climate change—were just emerging in serious public discourse then, but have since grown in urgency," Bruckman said. "The good news is that in the past 25 years, viable solutions in renewable technologies, organic farming methods and holistic healthcare practices have made great strides; now they just have to be implemented on a grander scale."
Shortly after the 25th anniversary issue was published, Joe Dunne, Natural Awakenings’ COO, had a serendipitous meeting with Kimberly Whittle, founder and CEO of KnoWEwell. One conversation later, he was certain that Whittle and Bruckman should meet, given their shared vision and mission. Dunne describes KnoWEwell’s online Regenerative Whole Health Hub as “WebMD, NEJM [New England Journal of Medicine], Match.com, Home Advisor, LinkedIn, Facebook, Amazon, Quora, Medium and Apple News all rolled into one for health.” A week later, Whittle was on a plane to Florida to visit Bruckman at her home. It was the start of a providential relationship between two visionaries determined to bring natural healing, health and hope to individuals and families.
A decade earlier, in 2009, Whittle was driven by a series of family health crises to embark on a search for solutions. Deep diving into evidence-based research, she traveled the country to multiple integrative and functional medicine practitioner conferences. “I was blessed to find tremendous success in the prevention and healing of chronic conditions through what today is defined as Regenerative Whole Health, a broad spectrum of global healing approaches and therapies that consider the whole person—mind, body and spirit—connecting the dots between soil, food, lifestyle choices, planet and personal health to help prevent and address the root causes of chronic diseases,” she explains. “I began as a mom on a mission. As I grew into my family’s healer, and then a health and well-being resource for my friends, I felt a deep yearning to go beyond my community and help more people.”
Combining her entrepreneurial spirit, professional experiences, passion and purpose, Whittle formed KnoWEwell as a force for good in the world, to pay it forward and make it easier for others facing their own health crises, and to pay it back to the professional organizations and providers that helped her family heal. Much like Natural Awakenings, KnoWEwell’s mission is to transform health care by inspiring and empowering individuals with the knowledge, resources and community to proactively prevent harm, address chronic diseases and create “WELLthier Living” for themselves, their families, humanity and the planet.
Last December, KnoWEwell acquired Natural Awakenings, creating an integrated ecosystem that is committed to community, spanning the information gaps, providing immersive multimedia educational experiences and fostering trusted connections locally and globally. Together, these two companies are set to be the solution for consciousness, healing and hope.
A World in Crisis Needs Our Collective Help
Individually and collectively, we are facing unprecedented challenges. Human and planetary health are in crisis, and they are inextricably linked. According to the World HealthOrganization, climate change is the biggest global health threat confronting humanity.
The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations estimates that 33 percent of the Earth’s soils are already degraded, and more than 90 percent could become degraded by 2050. Soil erosion decreases agriculture productivity and contributes to a host of environmental threats. It can take up to 1,000 years to produce just two to three centimeters of soil.
While gene-edited crops are being promoted by the world’s largest chemical companies as “giving mother nature a boost,” Jeffrey Smith, founder of the Institute for Responsible Technology, warns, “With gene editing techniques, such as CRISPR, nature could be permanently corrupted by countless GMOs, and our food supply—including organic—could be overrun.”
Meanwhile, six in 10 adults and more than half of all children have a chronic health condition. The problem, Whittle believes, is that while our conventional medical system excels at acute care for an injury or a heart attack, it was never designed to treat chronic conditions, focusing more on the symptoms than the root cause of disease. Studies show there is a roughly 17-year lag between new research and mainstream health and medicine practices.
Hope for People and Planet
Evidence-based research is proving that while our DNA may be our ancestry, it is not necessarily our destiny. According to Dr. Jeffrey Bland, the father of functional medicine, "Our gene expression is altered by numerous influences including environment, lifestyle, diet, activity patterns, psycho-social-spiritual factors and stress. These lifestyle choices and environmental exposures can push us toward (or away from) disease by turning on—or off—certain genes." Ninety percent of the risks of chronic disease are due to non-genetic factors, and with the right knowledge and resources, individuals can change their lifestyle and environment to prevent and reverse chronic health conditions.
Rodale Institute, a leader in organic farming education and research, points to the importance of farming methods in addressing the health and planet crisis. According to the organization, “Hope is right below our feet. Healthier soil grows healthier plants, and healthier plants are more nutritious plants. In our work at Rodale Institute, we’re investigating the links between soil health and human health and proving that organic [farming] can feed the world.”
Research by Rodale has confirmed that adoption of regenerative organic farming practices could capture more than 100 percent of current, human-caused emissions of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Rodale researchers concluded, “We now know enough to have real hope, and with this hope comes the responsibility to journey down a new path.”
Millennials are leading the way on conscious living, flocking to integrative options and opting for more “natural” care, long advocated by Natural Awakenings. They now constitute the largest sector of the U.S. workforce with annual spending power of $600 billion. Close to 60 percent of millennials research information about health and nutrition online and on social media. This health-conscious generation believes good health is both a personal and social responsibility. They are early adopters of wearable technology and prefer organically grown, locally sourced and ethically raised foods. But consumers of all ages are overwhelmed by information and unverified online sources in the fragmented whole health market.
The World Economic Forum reported in 2021 that health care is undergoing a digital revolution that requires multi-stakeholder collaboration and the bridging of information gaps by fusing the digital and analog worlds. The 2017 industry white paper “The Rise of Wellcare”, by PricewaterhouseCoopers, concluded that integrated ecosystems for the consumer in the healthcare industry are essential. This paradigm would include products, services, social media, community and environmental activism.
The good news is that Natural Awakenings magazine and KnoWEwell will continue to bring new answers and common-sense approaches to be incorporated into an enjoyable, fulfilling and healthy life. Whittle is honored to be continuing Bruckman’s legacy. "We are kindred spirits; I have the same purpose and unwavering drive that Sharon had founding Natural Awakenings nearly 30 years ago. I am deeply committed to multi-stakeholder collaboration that benefits all— our families, communities and the planet. We will educate to bring consciousness of connections into daily practices and respect for Mother Earth so all can thrive and prosper. Together, we will inspire, empower and achieve a WELLthier Living World.”
Brooke Goode is KnoWEwell’s national editor.