I am often asked how I became, or why I became an acupuncturist. I can say that it has been a journey of following my heart that I am still on.
It really started in high school.
I am a pretty slow reader, so in my "downtime" from competitive diving, school, and regular teenager stuff, I exclusively read herbals and books on healing. Any kind of organic healing - Pranic breathing, meditation, plant medicine, homeopathy...anything I could get at the library or bookstore (I'm dating myself).
Upon graduation, I did what was expected and went to university. I was in the science college within Michigan State and was a forest conservation major. I did well, but it wasn't a good fit. I would sit in my chemistry class of 500 with headphones on, listen to music, and then go back to my dorm room and teach it to myself. Because I was such a slow reader, doing math and science homework was a break from the slog of other reading that I had to do. A treat of sorts.
I spent that summer after my first year of college in Colorado. I came back to Michigan State with a wayward mind. I was taking a construction drafting class (hey, I might want to be an architect), a math class and a forest conservation class.
I met with the forestry professor I had the year prior and he sat me down for a frank conversation, "What are you doing? You are wasting your time, you are wasting your money. Figure it out." So I promptly left his office and dropped out of school.
I phoned my mom to tell her the rapid developments in my life. She told me to get a job.
So I did. And then moved back out to Colorado.
So at 19, I began my formal herbal studies at the Rocky Mountain Center for Botanical Studies (RMCBS) in Boulder, Colorado. I focused on Western herbal medicine and developed a special interest in ethical wildcrafting and herb harvesting. At RMCBS I was introduced to and took classes from master herbalist Susun Weed, an internationally acclaimed author and healer.
Honestly, she scared me. So naturally, I thought I should continue to study with her.
In 1996 I did a shamanic apprenticeship with Susun on her land in Saugerties, New York. While working with her wildcrafting herbs, herding goats, milking goats, and deepening my knowledge of holistic healing, I was introduced to the concept of recapitulation.
Recapitulation is an initial process in the shamanic journey to reclaim all the energy that has been lost throughout one’s life. The task is to revisit each and every meeting, interaction, and event to retrieve any energy that may have been lost in that exchange.
This is no small task, and Susun wasn't one to give guidance on how to develop this.
It took me about 10 years to simply figure out what my personal process is of reclaiming lost energy. See, the path to being a healer isn’t just taught from a book. Recapitulation isn’t a concept or an activity that can be laid out in oral or written text. Each apprentice must define and discover how that manifests for them. Once this vital component was not just conceptualized, but put into practice, my learning curve was steep and is ongoing. The intent for reclaiming lost energy is to be able to be at one’s fullest capacity as a healer. To be able to truly bring one’s whole self to the present moment.
Interestingly enough, these concepts of Western shamanism hold similar a resonance in the Eastern practice of Qigong and the art of Chinese medicine.
To balance out my woo-woo esoteric and energetic affinity, I continued my education and finished my Bachelors. I studied Organic Chemistry and Phytopharmacology (the chemistry of plant medicine) at the Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington. I didn't really know what I wanted to do after this, I knew that I wanted to go into medicine so I figured if I did the pre-med program I wouldn't have to go back and do prerequisites for graduate school.
So after graduating with my Bachelor of Science, I searched for my next inspiration / direction towards my path. All I knew was that I didn’t want to go to allopathic medical school.
At a chance encounter while on a road trip, I met an acupuncture student at a friend’s house in New Mexico. From that single conversation, I had a visceral response; that I simply HAD to learn Chinese medicine. There was no doubt, no question, it was a simple matter of fact that I had to study it. It was just the coolest thing that I had ever heard.
Fast forward to the next year where I had applied and was accepted to Bastyr University’s Master of Science program in Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine. I was also offered a job at Bastyr’s research institute based on my own undergraduate research and chemistry background.
While I studied at Bastyr I was also a research assistant studying ultra-high dilutions of Taxol from the Pacific Yew tree against various breast cancer cell lines. After that study concluded, I continued to work as a teacher's assistant for point location, Chinese herbal therapeutics, and biochemistry.
At Bastyr, I met my first mentor – Dr. Anne Jeffres.
Anne Jeffres, DAOM, L.Ac. is a sort of Chinese medicine prodigy who at a very young age was an esteemed and beloved teacher at Bastyr. With Anne, I studied Classical Five Element Acupuncture not only in school, but also as an observer in her private practice for many years. Even upon graduation and getting my own license, I continued to study and observe Anne. She was profoundly influential on my practice and perspective of healing. Eventually, Anne moved to New York, and I inherited much of her practice in Washington.
After studying with Anne for so long, I wanted to study with one of her foundational teachers, Thea Elijah, L.Ac. What better then the teacher’s teacher?
Thea is a master Sufi healer, acupuncturist, and international lecturer on these topics. I have now mentored with Thea for over 11 years and I embody the depth of her teachings into each treatment and into daily life. So while Anne influenced my acupuncture practice, Thea has influenced the eyes and heart I see the world through.
My family and I left Washington in 2010 to re-establish ourselves near family in Los Angeles, California. Now I get the opportunity to practice in sunny Santa Monica, California. I get to weave together my vast background from shamanism to biochemistry and Taoist philosophy to autoimmune disease to create diverse, effective, custom treatments for each and every patient.
Out of my sheer passion for learning and for Chinese medicine, my treatment plans truly embrace the WHOLE body to form a transformative healing experience. I continue to study with Thea as well as other master healers around the country.
Thank you for taking the time and reading my story. If you have any questions or comments, I would love to hear them. Please feel free to send me an email.