Friday, May 27, 2011

I Have Tape On My Car

I have tape on my car. On purpose. It keeps the cover on a light that otherwise would not stay on.

I grew up in Guatemala where duct tape is commonly used to patch up cars. So when I put the tape on, I was smiling in memory of the mother land. I noticed the other day that I suddenly felt embarrassed about this. An expensive car rolled up next to me, spewing loud music out into the air, creating an illusion of "it"ness. I looked over and thought, "I'm not riding in a cool machine like they are. If they look over right now, they just might see the tape and know that I don't have 'it'." [Really? Don't we grow out of thoughts like this?]

Soon enough I'll be buying a sparkly new ego-mobile. For now, I'm keeping the tape on my car on purpose. It reminds me that I am not my car. I am not my things. 'Cool' is in the eye of the beholder. Embarrassment is something I create - it's completely self-inflicted, based on my own perceptions, which also means I can let it go whenever I want.

So look for my taped up car on the roads, and if you see me driving by, wave and point. [But don't honk. Trying to cut down on noise pollution.]

Sunday, May 22, 2011

"Let me body about that"

Acupuncture is based on the premise of getting out of one's head and into one's body - to hear, see, touch, smell and feel what it is that's coursing through our veins right now at this very moment.

(Remember Billy Ocean? "Get outta my dreams, and into my car...get outta my mind, and into my life...")

It's conducive in society today to treat our bodies like they're second priority behind our brains. How we physically feel is not often convenient, so we've learned to suppress it. We have things to do and mouths to feed. We're working more and sleeping less. There's no off switch to our brains. We have a 24/7 news cycle. The number of hours spent in front of screens are on the rise. Getting coffee is our national pastime. Headache medicine is a staple in our purses and our offices.

As you're reading this, what does your body look like? Are your shoulders rounded? Is there any hidden tension in your hands and wrists? How does your back feel?

Pause: take a full inhale, followed by a full exhale.

What if our bodies had more of a say? What would life look like if we paid more attention to our bodily reactions and gut feelings? What if, instead of saying "let me think about that", we said "let me body about that"?

I've been experimenting with this. If I get invited to an event, I notice how my body responds to the idea of it. Sometimes my stomach will knot up, and sometimes my heart starts pounding. If I feel hungry, I take a minute to see what on the menu makes my mouth water (lately it's broccoli, contrary to my usual plan to order french fries).

Becoming aware of my body has shown me that my symptoms don't just appear out of nowhere. Tension doesn't come out of thin air. Pain and illness, like traffic jams, are the result of series of many mini back-ups. For example, my headaches come after I've been running on low sleep and barely any water. When I pay attention to first feeling tired and/or dehydrated, I know what's coming next -unless I self-correct.

No two bodies "think" exactly alike either. What's you're body telling you when your heart pounds or your breathing gets shallow or your stomach tightens?

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Addicted to addiction

I currently spend time in 12-step houses needling patients who are recovering from addiction. Some come because they want to, some are sent by the courts to get clean. They come to receive 5 needles in each year; 5 points that help reduce cravings, detox their bodies, calm their nerves, quiet their minds, and help them sleep through the night.

What I'm not sure they realize is that we are the same. In the moment when I'm bringing each needle to a patient's ear, neither of us are using, and both of us are addicts. It doesn't matter that I have no drugs or alcohol in my system. We're all on a spectrum of addiction, and none is better or worse than the other. Whether it's heroin, crack, coffee, exercise, food, twitter, gambling, alcohol, sex, work, cigarettes, attention or approval, pick your poison. Addiction is a coping mechanism; we're all trying to cope with life (suffering: change, pain, boredom, depression, uncertainty), to understand it, to process it, to go on living with it. 

What addiction creates is a love-hate battle within ourselves. We love the way we feel when we "get our hit", and we hate ourselves for being weak, for not being able to control ourselves from giving in. What I think addiction does is remind us of our humanity, and that we are not in control of life. We have all the choices in the world, and yet we are not running this planet, and we can't survive on our own. Life is living us, rather than we are living life.

I had the pleasure of listening to a lecture by German physicist Hans Peter Durr, who explained there is not a single atom that came into existence on its own, or for its own sake. Every single thing exists in relationship to something else. Day cannot be day unless there is night. Cold is not cold unless you know what hot feels like. I am not me unless you exist. We're designed to be connected - to be intertwined - with our babies, our mothers, with our lovers, our food, with the earth we live on. It's in our nature to create habits and patterns. When you feel satisfaction from an experience, our brain chemicals (serotonin, dopamine) say "that was nice, let's do it again", connecting pathways to remember it next time. As my friend says, "It's part of my personality and part obsession." 

If you come to me saying, "Can acupuncture help me quit _____?" I can show you the research supporting the evidence that it can help you quit, and craft a treatment plan designed for you. My ultimate goal in treating you, however, will not just be to end your addiction to X. My goal is to help you end the battle within yourself. I know that when I stop resisting and opposing myself, then I am more at ease in my body, I can see more clearly what I need and don't need, and I can surrender to the life that is living me.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Does Flo's insurance cover acupuncture?

Figuring out whether acupuncture is covered by insurance can be tricky. Coverage varies by insurance provider and plan. For example, some Blue Cross Blue Shield plans cover 24 visits per year. Carefirst offers a 30% discount. Aetna covers it with limitations. Some plans require that only an MD trained in acupuncture will treat you.
You'll want to check your individual plan and call your insurance provider prior to scheduling a treatment.

Questions to ask your insurance provider:

  1. How many treatments do I get?
  2. How much will they cover/pay?
  3. What is the normal co-pay for acupuncture from a preferred provider? (This is the amount you would pay out-of-pocket for each visit to a practitioner on their provider list.)
  4. What percentage will I pay for out-of-network practitioners?  (This is the amount you would pay out-of-pocket for each visit to a practitioner who is NOT on their provider list.)
  5. Who must provide the acupuncture? (Licensed acupuncturist or MD?)
  6. Will I need a referral from an MD to see the acupuncturist?
  7. What is my deductible?
  8. What conditions are covered for acupuncture? (Many plans only cover the treatment of pain)
I know a woman who called her insurance company and told them her acupuncture treatments were cheaper and more effective than her diabetes medications so she asked them to cover her acupuncture treatments. They opted to cover them since she was going to be a long term client of theirs and she spelled out how she would be saving them money.

Acupuncture was included in the Health Care Reform Law, so as Health Care Reform gets rolled out over the next couple years, it will become more mainstream and more insurance plans will cover it.

As part of the reform, President Obama established an Advisory Group on Prevention, Health Promotion, and Integrative and Public Health. Recently appointed to this advisory group was Charlotte Kerr, RSM, BSN, MPH, MAc, who is an acupuncturist and faculty member at Tai Sophia Institute with an extensive background in the health care industry. This group's job is to
  • develop policy and program recommendations, and
  • advise the National Prevention Council on lifestyle-based chronic disease prevention and management, integrative health care practices, and health promotion.
This group is also working to make sure that the cost of health care gets reduced by incorporating more prevention mechanisms and low-cost health options. It's in the best interest of the government to see that acupuncture gets fully incorporated into our health care system since, when compared to MRI's, surgery & pharmaceuticals, it costs a fraction of the price and delivers equally effective results.

The real question, however, is how do our priorities line up with our health? We pay $100 a month for cable TV. We'll buy pounds of candy at Costco. Down pints of beer in a night. Drop $100 at Target on a weekend. Meanwhile, we're Vitamin D deficient from lack of exposure to the sun, our gym membership cards are dusty, sleep deprivation is killing us slowly, and obesity is eating us alive. But we expect to pay $10 for a copay that directly affects our own vitality? Boy these flesh suits we inhabit take so much maintenance! They are constantly reminding us that we are temporary.... don't let the moment pass you by.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Spa World for all?

There is a cult-like phenomenon going on in the DC area called Spa World.
Spa World is essentially a Korean bath house. One half of the space consists of different types of saunas. The other half has several therapeutic wading pools. I've never seen or heard an ad for this place. It's a true word-of-mouth success story. They recently offered a Groupon and sold about 37,000 entrance tickets. Why does this place generate so much buzz?
When the name Spa World comes up in conversation, the word "naked" undoubtedly also comes up, followed by one's very personal opinion about "being around all those naked bodies". [In the pool area, which is separated into enclosed men's and women's pool rooms, there is a strict "no clothes" rule.]
While the very idea of this makes most people cringe, nothing seems to slow the popularity of this place. Why the success?

I think Spa World is a metaphor for the social climate in America these days: a desire for transparency and authenticity in every way.

We're tired of secrets and fine print. The economic downturn was due to secrets and fine print. Twitter and Facebook have created a new standard of communication that is more transparent and authentic. Obama got rave reviews after the White House correspondents dinner because he came across as a little more real & honest. Part of the satisfaction of the news about Osama Bin Laden is that he is no longer hidden.

This is why acupuncture is so relevant right now. Acupuncture is a process of uncovering the reason we get sick and revealing what triggers our stress, instead of covering it up with one more prescription. This can be scary, requiring a vulnerability of feeling and admitting what's really going on in our lives and our bodies... "my job is too stressful for me to stay much longer" or "my child's crying brings on my migraines". It takes courage to strip down to our bare, honest, authentic self.

Are you feeling brave today?