The Responsibilities of a Broken Heart

I would be remiss to move on

with my monthly email on acupuncture. This month I was poised to write about how acupuncture needles are different from other needles. I decided to shelf that until next month. 

I feel compelled to address the various heart aches in light of recent and not so recent events. Countless patients of mine have come in with varying degrees of anxiety, depression, forlorn, frustration, motivation, anger, etc...all stemming from heartache. Whether an environmental, political, social, economic threat, we feel it.  The German term for it is krankes herz, or sick heart. 

Our responsibility in times of krankes herz is to ensure that when our heart is broken, that it breaks well. 

I have contemplated for some time on what it means to break well. I've consulted my mentor, Thea, and asked for her perspective on what that looks like. It is our commitment to stay with heart in all its shattered pieces. Not to jump ship. Not to go into our head. Not to implode. Not to let scar tissue become an impenetrable wall.

There are various rituals around grief and loss that are oriented specifically to maintain heart in the face of pain. It may be a reaction to disconnect from the pain, to pacify the pain with various stop-gaps, to rationalize away the pain. While these survival techniques may work in the short term, living in survival mode is not sustainable for the long term. We are in it for the long haul. Together. 

I've listed a lot of what not to do, but haven't said what to do. 

Be present with the ache and pain. It hurts. I get it. It can seem endless in the sting or that the darkness has no end. There is a counter to the darkness. I promise. 

You know the Yin Yang symbol that has been tattooed ad nauseam on people's shoulders and ankles? There is a point where one transforms into the other. At the abundance of the dark there is a glimmer of the light. As the light grows, the darkness dims. Yes, there is a point in the continuum where it seems the darkness is without end, but only through continuing in that space do we get to light. 

While this may be an individual process, it does not mean that it is done alone. There are various resources to support you, I am one.

The Taoists and Five Element acupuncturists talk a lot about transformation of virtues. For example, from anger to benevolence or from grief to righteousness. 

Now if you ask me, these are pretty lousy translations. What is meant from transforming anger into benevolence is recognizing injustice, getting pissed about it, and DOING something. And what is done, doesn't just benefit the person who is angry, but benefits the community as a whole. It is like the Hulk. Getting green with anger and then becoming a superhero. 

Grief to righteousness isn't going from sadness to being holier than thou. It is recognizing pain and finding beauty. The co-existence of darkness and light.

I ask of you, I beg of you, in times of heart break to stay the course within your heart. To find the beauty. To pledge further commitment to your healing and wellness. To radiate that commitment so it is transmitted to others in despair. Hold the light, no matter how large or small, and act from the place of heart.

Mr. Rodgers advises that in times of strife to "look for the helpers."

With love and commitment, 

My Story.

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 affinityI 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. 

Are You Planning Any Travel?

Ready for take off?

You've got your tickets, you double checked you have your passport, you packed a toothbrush, and snacks for the plane. Did you pack your herbal first aid kit? Do you know how to not only prevent getting sick, but what to do if you do?


Let me help.

There are 3 major things that you can do, without any additional stuff to keep your immunity up while traveling.

  • Drink Water - drink a minimum of half your body weight in ounces, for example a 140 pound person would drink 70 ounces of water daily.
  • Avoid Sugar - Like the plague. Nothing will dip your immunity like that cookie.
  • Get Ample Sleep - This is not an "I'll sleep when I get on the plane" moment. But plan accordingly so you can sleep well a couple nights before travel. This may take a bit or organization, but it is possible! Don't wait to pack the night before is a biggy!

What do you do if you already feel that little bug coming on and your have already hit the road?

Here is where I can really help and a little preparation can go a long way. Most of us know what we are prone to while traveling - constipation, indigestion, insomnia, a cold, stomach flu, injury, etc. Traveling with one or two herb formulas can not only help prevent such un-pleasantries, but treat them if they manifest. Please use me as a resource. I want to make sure your vacations are all you want them to be by helping you stay healthy!

Ok, so now you've come back. What do you do about the jet lag?

Acupuncture, acupuncture, acupuncture. Did you know acupuncture can really help with jet lag? It can!

I have recently heard a simple circadian reset button is to fast on the day of travel and to eat breakfast at the new destination.

Happy Year of the Wood Sheep

February 19, 2015 - The beginning of the Year of the Wood Sheep.

What does this mean? What is a Wood Sheep?

Sheep are flock animals who work together. This is a year to acknowledge and celebrate our interconnectedness, that we are stronger as a whole then as individuals. The interdependence and team nature of the year of the sheep is enhanced by the Wood element.

There are five elements in Chinese medicine and culture: Fire, Earth, Metal, Water, and Wood. The archetype of Wood is that of the visionary. Thea Elijah, my mentor, speaks of the elements from a numerological perspective. She refers to Wood as the essence of the three-space. The number one resonates with Water, the seed. From the seed, comes the two-space of Fire, "me" has become a "we." Then, in the three-space, is the relationship between the two. There is you and me as individuals (one), us (two), and our relationship (three).

You can see how the Wood element enhances the group nature of the year of the Sheep. The Wood element is also the element of the hero. It is the element that sees injustice and does something about it. It transforms anger into the virtue of benevolence. The Wood element sees what is wrong, gets mad, and does something about it! What the Wood does, doesn't just benefit the individual but the whole community. This is Wood in health.

It is this time in the Year of the Wood Sheep where we reach out to others with compassion and inherent strength. We realize our success is dependent on the success of the WHOLE.

So...What do you think? Any questions? Comments? Please email me and let me know! I'd love to be a resource for you.

Are You Stressed?

STRESS...It eventually gets to everyone. Sometimes it is unclear how stressed we really are. More and more studies report what we already know and experience: Stress plays a HUGE role in disease and malaise.

We all experience stress, yet it affects each one of us differently. The questions are:
How do you know when you are stressed?
What are the signs?
What can do you do about it?

For many of us, stress can manifest as:

Lack of appetite / Large appetite
Abdominal pain
Neck and shoulder tension
Headaches / Migraines
Depression / Anxiety
Increased chronic pain

Acupuncture, a drug-free treatment within the system of Chinese Medicine, is an effective method to reduce stress. Not only does acupuncture and Chinese Medicine support us when we are stressed, but they can also help prevent physical reactions from future stressors. It can directly and positively influence how we experience our world around us. Aaah, doesn't that give a sigh of relief?

Want to learn more how acupuncture can help reduce stress and improve your quality of life? Email or call me.