What's most important to you? I'm listening...
I've asked this question of my friends, and the #1 answer I've gotten seems to be about weight loss after menopause. So I'm asking you who are receiving this, what's your #1 health issue that you want to know more about?
You see, I look at my role as a mentor. When people ask me, I tell them I'm an acupuncturist, but that's an incomplete answer. I'm really a mentor and advocate for health. I see my role as being a coach and a support system for those who seek my help in achieving their health goals. I also see my role as someone who pushes my patients to reach for higher health goals than they think they can. Ask yourself this: if you could feel 30% better than you do today, would that interest you? What if you could feel 50% better? What about 75%? Now, if you had to choose between those 3 options - 30%, 50% or 75%, which would you choose? Interestingly enough, most of the people who come to me come with the mindset of wanting to feel 30% better. To my way of thinking, I'd be doing them a disservice if I simply said "OK. I can help you achieve that", instead of pushing them towards the 75% goal. Wouldn't you want your healthcare provider to advocate that way for you? I know I would!
Also, I know that when I help someone who comes to me, the impact is not only on their own lives, but on the lives of their family, friends and co-workers. They may be the "identified patient" (as it's known in the health profession), but no one exists in a vacuum. Each one of us impacts many others, and so benefits to one are benefits to many.
So what is that you want to know more about? I want to give you information that's relevant to you. I'd really, really appreciate hearing from you!! I'd love it if you would like my FB page, give me a thumbs up or a thumbs down - any kind of response is welcome! Give me a comment on my blog - please! I respond to all of them. I also respond to all comments on Facebook. Thanks! And know that the responses I get will be the content of my future blog posts.
Innocence is not age-related
I spent last weekend with my teacher, Silvia Nakkach, here in San Diego. One of the things she is fond of saying is "We are all innocent." I love that, but I must confess that I wasn't quite grasping it. I mean, how can we claim innocence after age....say, 21? 23? This question has led me to my "creative inquiry" (another Silvia expression.) I'll give you some of my thoughts on the subject, and I'd love to hear any you might have, because I'm not done exploring this topic. Not even close!
I think we'd all agree that we come into this life innocent. From there, we are taught by our parents - who were also innocent - how to be a "someone" in a world of "someones". That someone is defined by our culture - race, gender, nationality, region, religion, etc. These teachings become our filters, through which we see the world. As long as we continue to walk this path, we are innocent, because we have yet to explore other possibilities.
Somewhere along the way, however, we all bump up against something which can give us the opportunity to question a deeply held belief. I say "can", because we have the free will to dismiss this opportunity, and proceed just as before. However, for those of us who take that opportunity, it opens a new door. When we enter that door, we do so in innocence, not knowing what might be on the other side.
Our lives will proceed from there in a new direction -- a new path will open and we will walk that path in innocence. Until the next opportunity comes along...and the next...and the next. As long as we are open to the next creative inquiry, we will walk in innocence. (And to my way of thinking, this is the greatest anti-aging technique in the world!)
How do you see the question of innocence? I would really love to hear from you!! Would love it if you would like my FB page, give me a thumbs up or a thumbs down - any kind of response is welcome! Give me a comment on my blog, and let's walk in innocence this week.
I had dinner with a friend tonight, and when the waitress asked us if we'd like some water, I said yes, but with no ice and some lemon, please. After she left, my friend asked me "Why do you order your water with no ice?"
It's funny, but no one has asked me that question before. But the question is a good one, and it opens the door to a discussion on two subjects: How to eat with the seasons, and how to maintain a healthy digestive system. You see, in Chinese medicine - which is more than just acupuncture -- there's a whole school of thinking that says that the digestive system is considered to be where health and disease begin. When I first heard this, I thought it was an overstatement, but the more I've considered it over the years, the more it makes sense. Let me break it down for you:
Consider this: you eat a carrot. A carrot is a root of a plant. You take that root of a plant, and you turn it into yourself. Your body uses it to make blood, and skin, and immune cells, and enzymes and everything else that constitutes your body. It's also true of the potato that you eat, the chicken or the eggs or anything else. That's what you're giving your body as the raw materials to keep renewing and growing everything in your body. If that digestive process is strong, then that whole transformation from "root" to "self" will be a smooth one. If it's weak, then over time the cells, tissues and organs of your body will be less healthy, because they were not given fully processed "raw materials" to work with, and so the "end product" will be of a lower quality. Since that end product is your body, this is not a good thing!
In this light, it makes perfect sense that the digestive system is key to a long, healthy life. But what does that have to do with no ice in the water? Well, in Traditional Chinese Medicine (or TCM), the stomach is considered to be a cauldron where the food is "cooked", so to speak. It needs to be kept warm in order for it to fully "cook" the food. If you're putting ice into the cauldron, it will cool down, and therefore work less efficiently. So that's why, unless it's a blistering hot day, I tend to drink my water at room temperature.
I'd love to hear from you if you found this information to be interesting or useful. Do you have digestive issues? Do you drink cold beverages? I'd be happy to have a dialogue with you about these things!
Last week I wrote about how I developed a sense of extreme caution around western medicine. This week I'd like to talk about the years I spent as a potter in New Mexico, and how those years actually proved useful to me as an acupuncturist.
The first time I drove west, it was to visit Bob, whose wife had just died at an early age. They had moved to New Mexico maybe 6 months prior, and so they hadn't made many friends. She and I had been friends back in New York, and so my visit heralded the opportunity for both Bob and me to share our loss
and grieve together. I wound up staying for several weeks, instead of the 5 days I had originally planned on. By the time I went back to New York, it was clear that Bob and I shared more than our grief. We called each other almost daily, and wrote long letters several times a week. Six months later I packed up my things and moved to New Mexico.
There was a building on the property which I converted into my pottery studio, and with the help of some locals who poured a cement slab for me, welded some metal framing and connected the gas lines and burners, I built a kiln in our side yard. To this day I cannot believe that I did that, because the plans I had for a kiln were for one which was much larger than the one I built. Somehow I figured out how to shrink those plans and make it work. Don't ask me how I did that - I couldn't tell you. Maybe it was the pot I smoked at the time?
Anyway, my life in New Mexico was a life surrounded by artists and scientists. Bob had been the editor of Physics Today, and so was connected to many scientists at Los Alamos. I formed friendships with potters, stained glass artists, jewelers and musicians - all living in the mountains east of Albuquerque. Every insomniac on the mountain would show up at our house in the middle of the night (Bob was a night owl) and play chess, or the game of Go with Bob. I learned to ski and bake bread. I had my first chiropractic adjustment and my first massage, and loved both.
It was my massage therapist who suggested I go to her acupuncturist. My cycle was wacky and she said he could help. Acupuncture was definitely not in the news or in the movies in those days, and so I had no idea what to expect. Knitting needles? (But she said it didn't hurt, so that couldn't be it....) I was so pleasantly surprised by the whole experience that I went back for a second treatment. By the end of that treatment, I sat up and asked "How can I learn this?" "You can't". Huh? How could that be? "From what I know about what's out there, vs. what my teacher taught me, I can't recommend that you study with anyone else, and right now he's not teaching. But he probably will again. It's in his blood." That was in February of 1986.
Long story short - he had moved to San Diego by the time I heard about him. By that summer, I received a catalogue and an application for a school he was starting in San Diego. Bob was in favor of me studying, and supported me learning a profession. (Clay dust and hauling thousands of pounds of clay around were beginning to wear on me.) And so in September of 1986 I drove my Honda out to San Diego to begin studying eastern medicine with Sensei Nakazono. With years of developing "eyes in my fingertips", I found the palpation part of medicine to be easy. I could feel the blockages of energy in the body as well as in the pulses. My heart began living a dual life -- part of me will always "live" in New Mexico. And the other part is happy to be working at something which helps so many people not only regain their sense of health and wellbeing, but also helps to keep them living at optimum levels. The opportunities for me to practice this medicine just fell into place in San Diego, and so I stayed. I can't complain.....there are far worse places to live!
If you like this post, please go ahead and share it on social media. Give me a thumbs up -- or a thumbs down - whatever. Just give me some kind of reaction, comment....
Oh - and I thought I had scheduled this to be posted on Friday. Apparently I need to learn more about how to schedule my posts!
It all began with my dad....
I don't often share the story of my life with people other than close friends. But for whatever reason, I decided to "pull back the curtain", as it were, and tell you all how I first got interested in medicine. Actually, it's really more about how I got (mostly) turned off by western medicine. Oh, don't get me wrong - I still go to the doctor occasionally. But for the most part, I rely on eastern medicine for my health and well being.
When I was a kid, my father was diagnosed with something called Kaposi's Sarcoma. Nowadays it's considered to be an AIDS Related Complex, but back in those days, there was no AIDS. This was back in the 50s, and AIDS didn't exist in the US. Most doctors had no idea what Kaposi's was, had never seen a case of it, didn't know how you got it, didn't know how to diagnose it, let alone treat it.
Somewhere along the line, a doctor examined my dad's leg (the first signs of it were on his lower leg) and declared "That's Kaposi's! The only thing to do is amputate." My dad ran like hell - or at least got out of there as quickly as possible, given the fact that his leg had sores all over it and was hurting.
That began a journey which covered years and years, where he went from one doctor to the next, and was treated the best way they knew how at that time -- as a medical experiment. They used everything from arsenic to mustard gas on him, and almost killed him with the mustard gas. (It was designed to kill people, after all.) One day my sister popped in unannounced to the hospital where he was undergoing his "treatment" with mustard gas, and was told that he was in the ICU. "He's going to die", the doctor told her, and then walked off. (She collapsed into a chair.)
When my mom finally brought him home from the hospital after he survived that particular round of chemical warfare, (she literally called him back from the dead -- but that's a story for a different post), he was ready for amputation. By then the Kaposi's had spread to his hand, and so he wound up having a leg and 3 fingers amputated.
The road to healing from that was long and arduous, but my dad was diligent in his therapies and exercises and wound up living for something like 27 years after they had given him up for dead.
I was 16 when he had his amputation. I don't recall how old I was when he was diagnosed - I just know I was a little girl. So the majority of my childhood was spent with a dad who was being used for medical experimentation, by doctors who meant well, but didn't really have a clue what they were doing. Is it any wonder that I developed a certain skepticism about western medicine? I had never heard of eastern medicine back then, but I learned to approach doctors and drugs with a great deal of caution, to say the least.
So that was my experience with medicine when I was a child. I saw the limitations of what was known, and the willingness to try anything, no matter how deadly, in an attempt to produce a miracle. I have no idea what they might have told my parents about what they were doing, nor do I know if my parents truly understood the risks. I was a child, after all. I just know that as a result of this experience, I did not develop that utter faith in what doctors said.
Next week I will continue this story, fast forwarding to "The New Mexico Years" Hint: that's where I lived when I was a potter, and where I first encountered eastern medicine.
Please leave a comment and let me know if you've had a story - good or bad - about western medicine. Or eastern medicine. Share this on social media if you'd like.
What is it that happened to you in your childhood that led you to have the views you now hold about - anything? Medicine? Politics? Religion? Was someone you know saved by doctors? Were you stirred deeply by a political speech, or a religious leaders talk? I'm truly interested!
I asked a patient of mine this question today, and it took him over 3 minutes to figure out what it meant to rejuvenate. Now, don't get me wrong, here. This man is smart. He understood the question. He just couldn't figure out what he actually did to rejuvenate.
How many times have we been so busy "doing".....work, errands, catching up on emails, etc. ..... that we've forgotten what it means to just "be". To look around with wonder at the world around us. I heard a quote recently that said "We are perishing for lack of wonder, not for lack of wonders."
This is not a small matter. For in order to actually have a sense of wonder, we need to actually be present. In this moment. Now. Right here, where our life is actually happening. And when we find ourselves present - here now - a funny thing happens. We discover that we have dropped the stress. It's gone. And the reason it's gone is because we are not worried about the future, or thinking about the past. We are present in this moment, where there is nothing missing. We're simply engaged in life as it is.
Are you ready to drop the stress? Even for a few moments? Take a deep breath....let it go....and show up here and now, with whatever is happening in your life. It's a terrific anti-aging technique! Try it and let me know what you think.
Like it sweet, but don't want the weight gain? Think you're doing it right by drinking diet sodas and chewing sugar free gum? Think again.
Ever since the aspertame (Equal, NutraSweet), was first introduced 35 years ago, it was touted as a solution for those who wanted to have their cake and eat it too. We were told we could have sweets and not gain weight. Who could resist? Recent studies of aspertame have concluded, however, that it has a carcinogenic effect. Perhaps it might have something to do with the fact that it turns into formaldehyde in the body?
So then what about Splenda? It's made from sugar, but it doesn't have any calories. Wouldn't that be better? Well, yes, if it wasn't a chlorinated version of sugar. Chlorine? Really? When't the last time you wanted to ingest it? I didn't think so.
So then there's Xylitol. It's the latest and the greatest - especially if you like to chew gum. But wait! Anything that ends in "itol" is a sugar alcohol, and sugar alcohols aren't well absorbed by the body. In fact, many laxatives have the same chemical makeup as xylitol, maltitol, sorbitol, and all the other "itols". From a Chinese medical perspective, these substances cause a downward movement of qi, or energy, and for this reason should be avoided by pregnant women.
I could go on, but you get the idea. So what should you do if you want something sweet?
My #1 recommendation is honey. But it must be raw, organic honey, because anything else is mostly corn syrup with honey in it. Yes, I know that it says "organic" and maybe even "pure honey", or "100% pure honey", but those labels are misleading. What they point to is the fact that the honey that's in there may be organic or pure (whatever that means), but they don't mean that everything in that jar is honey. It's a sneaky little labeling trick that the FDA has been allowing for years, under the heading of "proprietary information". In other words, not everything that's in our food is labeled, because to do so would mean that companies would have to give out their "secret sauce", so to speak.
There's also coconut sugar and brown rice syrup as alternatives, as well as agave syrup. And for those who like the taste of stevia, that's good too.
To live a healthy lifestyle doesn't mean that you have to become a monk. You can have something sweet. Just consider using natural sweeteners rather than something made in a laboratory. I like to tell my patients to read the labels on their food. If they can't pronounce or know what an ingredient is, how do they know it's food?
Do you feel like you're walking in those flip-flops? I've got a pair of them too. But there are simple ways to kick them off and turn "Ow!" to "Om". Read on....
1. Breathe. I know, you're already breathing. But are you? Do you realize how many times a day you actually stop breathing? If not - check in with yourself. And then take a few moments to focus on your breath. Breathe in deeply, and as you exhale think to yourself "One". Then inhale, and when you exhale, say to yourself "Two". Try to fill up not only your lungs, but your back (yes, it's possible), and your belly. (No one's looking - go ahead!) Keep the count going until 10 - it'll take about a minute and a half.
2. Meditate. I know, you don't have the time. You're late for work. Take one minute when you get into the car and just focus on your breath. One minute will not make any significant difference in when you get to work, but it can make a huge difference in how you feel when you get there. And that can translate into better decisions, better teamwork and more productivity.
3. Exercise. It's the best way to condition your heart and protect it against the negative effects of stress. Don't belong to a gym? No problem. Next time you need to get to the 2nd or 3rd floor of the building or parking garage, use the stairs. Is your grocery store nearby? Bring your own bag and walk. If the round trip is a half hour, you've accomplished two types of exercise - both aerobic (walk as briskly as you can without injuring yourself), and on the way back, you'll be carrying at least one bag of groceries, so you're strengthening your arms. Voila!
And don't forget, we offer group sound healing sessions once a month at Mission Valley Acupuncture. Great way to reduce stress!!
It seems that our brains are hard-wired to seek beauty. If we lost our hearing, for instance, we would want more than the ability to hear sounds again - we would want to hear beautiful sounds. We wouldn't be craving the sound of a horn honking or the screeching of brakes - we would want music.
Perhaps there's an evolutionary reason for this - I don't know. But what makes sense to me is that we seek beauty because it feels good. When we are surrounded by clutter and chaos, when our environment has too little color and too much trash, it affects us. We have less room for creative thinking, which means problems go unsolved, or solved only at the lowest level.
Sometimes all it takes is a single flower in a small glass to lift our spirit, or a photo cut out of a magazine. Simple things like these can bring us a greater sense of peace. Even the smallest shift in energy can bring about change, and we can have control over how we shift that energy.
Is there something that you do to shift the energy when you're feeling anxious?
You know you're stressed out, but you don't feel like you have the time to sit down and meditate. Besides, your mind is going a million miles an hour - so what's the point? You'd love to go to the gym, but that means getting into your car, fighting traffic, changing your clothes, and then needing a shower afterward. Waaaay too much time! You've got deadlines to meet.
So what can you do right now -- right where you are - to take the stress levels down? Here are 3 simple techniques that can use immediately to shift your energy from feeling scattered to feeling centered.
1. Gently close your lips, as though you were going to kiss someone, and hum. Try to direct the sound of your hum towards your spine, rather than outward into the room. Shift your tone up and down as you visualize your hum going up and down your spine. Do this for as long as you wish, but try to do it for at least 90 seconds.
2. Take a deep breath in, filling your belly with as much air as you can. Yes, it's OK to let your belly expand for this! When your belly is completely full, hold your breath for 4 seconds (one-one thousand, two-one thousand, etc.). If you are somewhere where you can make some noise, let your breath out with an audible "AHHHHHH!" If you cannot make that much noise, then just let your breath go as though you were sighing. Repeat this 3 times.
3. Take a deep breath into your belly. Using your stomach muscles as though they were bellows, forcibly expel the air through your nose, and then allow your breath to come back in naturally. Repeat this as rapidly as you can, concentrating on the exhale, pumping the air out and allowing it to fill your lungs naturally. Do this 20 times, then inhale deeply, hold your breath for the count of 8, and then let go and let the breath return to natural. Repeat this 3 times.
All of these little exercises will connect your mind, body and breath. When your mind is occupied with counting breaths or visualizing sound going up and down your spine, it cannot multitask. You will find yourself more grounded in the present moment -- and in this moment, there's nothing to stress out about, there's nothing to be anxious about, and there's nothing to regret.
I've been practicing acupuncture and Chinese medicine for over 25 years, and this ancient wisdom never gets old. I love helping people feel better without the need for drugs or surgery.