What's with the Pulse?

Are you ever curious why I take the pulse throughout the treatment?

I love the pulse.

I am not quite sure how I would practice without taking the pulse. In fact, I wouldn't work with a provider who didn't practice some form of palpation - whether it be pulse taking, Hara diagnosis (abdominal palpation), channel palpation, etc. It is just too vital of a diagnostic tool to omit. Why is that?

Palpatory diagnosis is another way for the body to tell the provider what is going on and what it needs. I use the pulse as a non-verbal way to check in with my patients.

Are the meridians flowing freely and fluidly? Or is there a block from one into another?  Is one (or more) organ systems running sluggishly while another is over compensating for that weakness? Are things running too hot and too fast? Or too cold? Is there stagnation? What is the cause of that stagnation? Did the acupuncture point that I just placed improve the pulses and thus signal the body to heal? I can feel the answers to these questions (and more) on the pulse.

The pulses give me automatic feedback on the efficacy of the treatment. Many of my established patients know that I will not let them leave unless I am satisfied with the shift in their pulses.

Isn't there only one pulse? What do I feel for? How does it change?

There are over 20 different pulse positions presented on both wrists. Each of the 12 regular meridians and the 8 extraordinary meridians are shown on the pulse, plus the corresponding organ system to those channels. 

The pulses are not static and fixed. When I am feeling the pulses I am paying attention to how they relate to each other. We are a whole system, that is not separate from our environment or from other parts of our bodies. Yes, our eyes can relate to the health of our liver! A trained acupuncturist can feel that in the pulse. The season also influences the pattern of the pulse. Having a wiry (think of a guitar string) quality to the pulse in the spring is normal and healthy, but that same wiry quality is not the ideal pulse pattern in autumn. 

Classically speaking, of the 20-plus positions, there are 28 different ways to describe the pulse, ex. slippery, wiry, choppy, thready, hollow, etc. These descriptions give me information on the quality and quantity of Qi and Blood in the body. They can guide my point selection and herb recommendations. 

As for quantity, how strong is the pulse in that particular position and how is it in relation to all the other pulses? Are all the pulses weak or is just one position weak? After I inserted a particular point prescription, did the overall quality improve? Did just that particular position improve? Or (gasp) did they get worse? It can happen, in which case I immediately remove the offending point and find the correct point to promote harmony. I take all these (and more) factors into account when feeling the pulses and prescribing a treatment plan.

Is this cool or what? Pretty much I use the pulse to keep my agenda out of the picture. It keeps me humble. The pulse is my patients' way of telling me exactly what they need and if what I have chosen is aligned with that. If what I have chosen does not resonate effectively, I remove the point. I have even started to test points prior to insertion using an acupressure Qigong technique that I have personally developed. This prevents patients from unnecessary pokes. We can all appreciate that, no?

Do you want to know more about the pulse? Do you have comments about it or other topics related to health and wellness? Please ask me! Please allow me to be a resource for you. Don't be shy. 

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. 

Five Elements - Metal

Though we cannot speak of the Tao...

we can speak of the Five Elements composing the Tao - Fire, Earth, Metal, Water, and Wood.

The Five Elements give us a map on how to look at the universe around us
and a language to describe it. We can speak of how external / seasonal
changes influence our internal landscape. We are able to create a
dialogue based on these elements that describe the body when it is in
health and when it has fallen out of health. 

We have entered autumn, the season of METAL.

Metal’s color is white, its sound is weeping, the odor is rotten, and its emotion is grief. What does this all mean?

It is a resonance. The color white represents the color of the metals of
earth. It is the color that reflects off of one’s skin who has a strong
Metal influence. It is usually seen around the temples or sides of the
mouth. It is the color reflected, not absorbed.  A Metal person’s voice will have a weepy or breathy quality (think Marilyn Monroe) independent of the content of the words. 

The odor of Metal is rotten. Not in a “ewww this person smells rotten” but
in the way autumn leaves begin the process of adding minerals back into
the earth. 

There is a downward and inward direction to Metal. Fall is a time to come in-doors, cozy up by the fire, prepare for the
winter to come. 

How do we prepare for winter in autumn?

Do we strip off our clothes and run around outside? Or is it time to come
in, internalize, begin the layering to keep warm. It is the time when we
determine what is important. What do we need to make it through this
winter? What do I truly value? 

Confucius speaks of the transformation of virtues for each element.  Metal is the transformation of virtue from grief to righteousness. Grief being the acute awareness of what is not beautiful, what is not heavenly. Grief highlights for us
what is important, and what is not. Through acceptance we transform
grief into righteousness. Righteousness is not, “I am more lofty and
closer to God then you” but as having the ability to see beauty in all
things (even death). It is the ability to see the divine in ALL things. 

An exercise for strengthening our Metal in autumn. My mentor, Thea Elijah, gave this exercise that I love doing and thought I would pass it on. An
attribute of Metal is to have clarity on what we value. For the next
week, whenever you see something of beauty, stop, and bow. If bowing
“randomly” in public when you see a beautiful leaf makes you feel a bit
self-conscious, simply stop and feel that sense of deep internal
gratitude. The physical act of bowing may help make those moments more
obvious, but play with doing both. How does physically bowing feel
different from an internal bow? Can you have that sense of deep heart
without physically bowing?