Author Karen Howard

Originally from Springfield, MO, I’ve spent the last 40 living years in Washington,DC working as Congressional Committee staff, lobbying for health care issues, and working for a variety of professional and trade associations. I have experienced a monumental shift in my outlook since the fateful events of 9/11 in 2001. This cataclysmic event left an indelible mark on my sensibilities, prompting me to seek a more purposeful existence. Thus commenced my extraordinary journey towards healing and self-discovery.

For a decade, I collaborated closely with naturopathic physicians, leading the way as their Executive Director. I ventured to Ecuador, immersing myself in the wisdom of native healers.

It was during that time that I was introduced to Bob Duggan, the visionary behind Tai Sophia acupuncture school. Pursuing a master’s degree under his tutelage, I learned to cultivate a state of well-being through mindful language and actions. I invite you to explore Bob’s final body of work—an enlightening collection of ten practices that have empowered me to navigate life’s tumultuous waters with grace and bid farewell to unnecessary suffering. The stories I share are intended to guide you in honing your ability to listen to your body, adjust your response to external influences, and experience your power to shift how you respond to what we commonly refer to as stress. As we grapple with the challenges of our times, my sincerest wish is that you derive immense benefit from Bob’s teachings and tap into the profound wisdom residing within your own body. Remember, upset truly is optional.

The Inspiration


Available today, Buy Now

Upset is Optional


Table of Contents

Chapter 1:
Suffering is not optional. Upset is.

Chapter 2:
Breathe deeply, because anything worth doing is worth doing well.

Chapter 3:
Words are like drugs. Some are healing, others inflict pain.

Chapter 4:
Five Symptoms that Point to Illness and Pain.

Chapter 5:
Story versus Phenomena: Know the difference and save a relationship.

Chapter 6:
Reframe your stories for a better view on your life.

Chapter 7:
Making a Request versus a Demand.

Chapter 8:
Listening is not a passive exercise.

Chapter 9:
Hate having a bad day? Design each day by defining your mood.

Chapter 10:

The Inspiration of Bob Duggan


My life’s journey led me to Tai Sophia, the first accredited acupuncture school in the U.S., and its founder Bob Duggan. My pursuit in the school’s Applied Healing Arts program was transformative. Bob’s last gift was to hone his work into a series of simple practices in an apprentice program. Each practice is centered on understanding how you feel in your body will impact your thoughts, actions, and health. Bob taught me how to breathe and changed my life. The stories in this book illustrate how the practices can create peace in your body and your world of work and family. These are practices that enable successful navigation through the disruptions, disagreements, and misunderstandings that can ruin a family holiday dinner, disrupt the success of a project, or prevent us from experiencing the joy of life. They are healing. And they require practice.

Penn North

Bob founded Penn North, a community-based, peer-led nonprofit in Baltimore City, Maryland in 1993. The mission of this non-profit organization is to help individuals and communities overcome substance abuse, poverty, homelessness, crime, and health inequalities. It is one of the first programs in the country to use acupuncture for drug addiction treatment. Profits from the sale of Upset is Optional, will be donated in Bob’s name.

Upset is Optional from Paul Abowd on Vimeo.

What would your life be like if you had access to a trusted, credible, and experienced friend to act as a guide in understanding the interconnectedness between our challenges in life and the opportunity for personal growth and a greater, more “in the flow” experience on our path? Well, I have been blessed with such a friend, Karen Howard. And I am thrilled that in this book she provides the valuable tools and insight designed to align your inner rhythm with higher awareness with one major goal. To make your life feel more purposeful, fulfilling, and joyful.

Michael Murray ND

Author of 30+ books with over 6-million copies sold

The great healers of human history have all had a special gift for reconnecting individuals to the healing power already dwelling within themselves. And it was this special gift that Bob Duggan’s life of service brought to our times. [Like Francis of Assisi, Bob believed “we have been called to heal wounds, to unite what has fallen apart, and to bring home those who have lost their way.”]

With compelling stories and an urgent relevance for our times, Karen Howard has done a masterful job of bringing Bob’s powerful lessons of hope and healing to a even broader audience.

Governor Martin O’Malley (2007-2013)

Upset is Optional is a no-nonsense roadmap to living your best life. For anyone seeking sustainable change in their daily life the principles within these pages are the precise tools to accomplish these goals.

Naomi Whittel

CEO, Naomi Whittel Brands, New York Times Best-selling Author, Glow15

I would love to hear from you!


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