Friday, December 14, 2012

Confession: I’m a holiday hater

During the holidays, I like to keep my mind flooded with complaints: hate holiday food, hate holiday shopping, hate holiday crowds, hate holiday traffic, hate holiday parties, hate holiday party small talk, hate holiday cheer. Scrooge, scrooge, scrooge. I’ve been broke and alone on holidays so I know that now, while I’m in my warm, pajama’d, made-up ritual of a holiday, someone else is having just another cold day. I spend November and December with my forehead fixed in a permanent frown and all the muscles of my body tense up; my scapulas freeze in place.

This year I dug deep to uncover my emotional graveyard. Every time I have an unusually strong emotional response to something, I do some introspection about when it started, why I’m still choosing to react, and how to move past it. This time, here’s the skeleton I found: The holiday season represents everything I judge about myself. One of my deepest fears is that I will be seen as a lazy, boring, stressed out superficial glutton. The holidays represent exactly that to me: lounging around being lazy, having nothing important to do, filling it with unnecessary errands in crowded lines, bantering about the weather, and stuffing my face with food that makes me double over in pain(too much cheese anyone?). 

How ironic that this season is supposed to be a celebration. Ironic because my experience of unconditional love is exactly that: celebrating a person for simply being, shadows and all. It occurred to me that I could re-craft the holidays as a time for me to forgive myself, a time to appreciate love that is judgment-free, no matter how sloth-like or food-stuffed I feel. 

This realization was a big grateful teary-eyed heart-opener for me. But… then I came to a choice.

If I let go of my story about how horrible the holidays are, I become a different person. Jolly? Chipper? Ew. Being a grinch had become comfortable for me. I knew what bent-out-of-shape felt like in my body. And it was my crutch to prove that I was serious and aware of the world’s poor, sick and lonely.  How could I now embrace the holidays in a way that feels genuine?

So this is where I am now: I’m pondering how I can be mindful of others and forgiving of myself. Here’s what I’m asking myself: If I had no self-judgment, what would my posture look like? If I had no fear, how would I walk? If I chose to design a different story about the holidays, one of ease and love, how would I feel? 

What a gift, this season, to allow me to practice loving and being loved. 

Thursday, October 11, 2012

You are amazing.

I was recently told that I was amazing. And... that I was bawdy too... but I'm not sure that one was a compliment.
When I heard the words "you are amazing", I physically felt my body temp rise and my shoulders relax. It doesn't matter whether I actually am amazing or whether I'm really a criminal. What matters is that my body responded in that moment - it relaxed a little -  it healed a little.

I took a cue from the person who paid me the compliment - As often as I can do so from a place of honesty, I am practicing telling people they are amazing. When I do, I mean it, intending it as a gift that their body will respond to (consciously or subconsciously) in a life opening way.

In Chinese Medicine, Autumn is about acknowledgment. Acknowledge the fruits of your labor, the work you do, the person you have become, the fact that you are here, now, alive and breathing.

Try this:
First, say to yourself: "I'm amazing"and mean it. What subtle shifts do you notice internally?
Next, find someone today to say "You're amazing" to and mean it. What do you notice in your own body as you tell them, and what response to you get from them?
Amazing leaf.
I'll be teaching a free community class about living well in Autumn according to Chinese Medicine this Sunday, Oct 14th at 11am at Crossings in Silver Spring, MD.

Friday, September 28, 2012

You don't have to believe in Acupuncture for it to work

I heard a question recently: "Do I have to believe in acupuncture for it to work?"
The answer is... no! (do I hear a sigh of relief?)

Here's one sign: acupuncture works amazingly well on animals. That's probably because they don't have thoughts like "I reallly hope this acupuncture helps my hind leg." or "Man, this person's voodoo needles better have extra good voodoo in them." Nope - they just lay there, let a needle slide right in, then get up and get on with the rest of their sniffing-eating-pooping-sleeping day.

More and more research shows that the placebo affect is all around us. Placebo means "A substance containing no medication and prescribed or given to reinforce a patient's expectation to get well." The key word here is expectation - that means a person chooses to believe a placebo and increases their own expectation of getting better. For example: In a clinical trial, a person who is given sugar pills may choose to believe they will feel better....and sometimes they do. For that person, does it matter what the pill was made of? Another example: Some people choose to believe that prayer will heal them....and sometimes it does. Does it matter whether the act of prayer or God him/herself has been proven to heal? In the same vein, it doesn't matter whether you believe acupuncture is a placebo or science or magic. What matters is feeling better.

Acupuncture is not a belief system. It's tiny stainless steel needles that go into skin (and a beautiful, complex system of medicine, of course....which is why it's taken me 3 years to study how to put needles in skin). The needles I put into your skin don't rely on, don't harm, and don't affect any religious, philosophical, theoretical, scientific, or other belief systems you may have.

So rest assured, you can get acupuncture and still believe in unicorns....or whatever suits your fancy.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Here Comes Fall Allergy Season

In Chinese Medicine, August is the beginning of the ascent into Autumn. Are you ready?
In my clinic we're helping people prepare for the Fall allergy season now.
In addition to acupuncture, my favorite ways to keep sinuses clear are: Neti Pot, Peppermint Oil (a little sniff here, a little dab there), drinking water and herbal tea like this amazing one from Teavana.
Feel free and contact me with any questions or to book an appointment if the thought of Fall allergies scares you stiff!

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Hold onto your addiction...

Sometimes you've gotta hold on tight to your addiction (ah-hem, Starbucks).
If you have a habitual thing you do or consume every day, study it. Become an expert on what it does to your body.

I hear all the time that coffee is bad for me. And still, I am consciously choosing to drink it once daily. I do it on purpose as a token of joy and love for where I came from. I was born and raised in Guatemala; we had coffee beans growing in our back yard. My family raised me to be a coffee snob. My husband never drank coffee until he met he's also a coffee snob. 

When I drink it, I take careful note about how jittery or dehydrated or artificially alert I may feel. On days when I know I don't need to be in this state, I consciously refrain from my caffeine fix. Until I decide to fast from coffee for a solid stretch of time, I'm going to continue with gusto, drink it on purpose with a clear conscience, and continue to learn through awareness the internal costs I may be paying for it.

If you do have an addiction you're ready to let go of, contact your local acupuncturist. We have amazing treatment protocols to help you detox and de-stress while you kick the habit.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Seeking Summer Solstice

I'm thrilled to teach a FREE community class with Rachel Brumberger called Expand the Contours of Your Heart this month. This is part of a series of workshops Rachel and I teach about living well in each season.

According to Chinese Medicine, summer is associated with fire. Think sweltering heat and bonfires. Think intimacy, partnership and laughter.We'll discuss the gifts that come out of sharing our experience of life with loved ones. We’ll explore the importance of finding what gives you joy and passion. We’ll talk about why it matters to use your heart muscle. And we’ll share lifestyle and nutritional tips on staying cool in the heat. 
Sunday, June 24, 2012 
Crossings, Silver Spring, MD

Friday, May 4, 2012

Press this magic point when traveling!

I recently took a weekend trip to Chicago. After rushing through security and squishing my self into my cozy middle seat on the plane there, the woman on the left of me sneezed, spray showering me. Oh, the joys of traveling. This is when I reached down and pressed - rather, dug into as hard as I could - an acupuncture point on my leg with my fingers.

Let me tell you about this magic little point: It's called ST36, Zu San Li, or "Leg Three Miles". The story goes goes that ancient Chinese would run long distances to carry messages or during battles. They would reach down and press this point when running to go 'three more miles'. The point stabilizes and harmonizes, facilitates nourishment and resilience.

When I fly, I feel uprooted, ungrounded, full of stale cabin air, and sluggish upon landing, making it harder to transition into whichever time zone I'm entering. I pressed this point, on both legs, during both plane rides on this trip and I felt more stable in myself, energized, less rattled, and not fearful about being sneezed on. I didn't get sick or a have a meltdown. It was like I pushed my "all immunity systems go!" button.

Next time you fly, or take a road trip, try it!
It's located about one hand width below the bottom of your knee cap (patella), and about one finger width away from the tibia, on the outer front side on both legs.
Ask your local acupuncturist for "seeds" like the one shown here, which are tiny beads stuck to a tiny bandage that gently activate a point when you're not getting acupuncture done!

Happy travels!

Sunday, April 1, 2012

All of Life and Death in two little words

After grabbing dinner with a friend, Abby, one evening, we decided we’d try to make it to a meditation service even though we’d be cutting it close on time. I was the one driving, a little on the fast side, and I was not familiar with the whereabouts of our destination. As we came close to the building, I noticed – a little late – that the entrance sign was tucked into some corner bushes. I stepped on the brakes to make a quick right turn. Brake. Screech. Skid. Swerve. The combination of my speed, turning action, and a slick spot on the road put my car into a half spin. We began sliding through the intersection squarely in the direction of a few cars perpendicular to us. 

In those slow-motions seconds of floating diagonally out of control, I felt Abby’s fingers brush my wrist and I heard her say “It’s OK.” Then I felt my body relax.

I don’t know how Abby really felt – her response was not the one I would’ve assumed anyone in the passenger seat of a swerving car would have. If it were me, I probably would’ve pulled a mom-driving-with-a-teenager move, clutched the dashboard and window simultaneously while blurting out a prayer/curse word.

Somehow, my car regained its balance and we avoided what could’ve been a major collision. I glided into a parking space and let out a sigh. If there were ever a perfect time for a mediation, that was it!
We scuttled inside and took our seats. Eyes closed, breathing deep, I could feel the adrenaline coursing through my body. As I was fully feeling my throbbing heart beat, thoughts flooded my mind. First, they were calm, happy thoughts like “Yes! I’m here!” Then, the thoughts changed to “Wait! Something just almost happened! You could’ve killed someone! You’re supposed to feel bad! Guilty! Or shameful!” I realized that if I did take on guilt or shame, it would come from a desire to express respect for Abby’s life. Owning guilt or shame would be a way to punish myself for nearly inflicting unfathomable harm to her and others. When I followed this line of thinking into the enormity of what could’ve happened, my chest felt too heavy to bear. The truth was, thought, that no death or damage actually happened. It became clear to me that I could make a choice of holding onto what could’ve happened, or I could remain in the present, acknowledging what actually happened. And what actually happened moved me.

I replayed the experience in my mind. Brake. Screech. Skid. Swerve… “It’s OK.”
Those two little words - "It’s OK” - reverberated through me in that instant. They changed me biologically. They put me at ease; they set me free from blame, guilt, shame, or punishment. I was pre-forgiven. All of life opened up for me in that near-death moment. If those were the last two words I ever heard, I would’ve entered the afterlife in a state of peace.

Abby’s words were a great gift to me. As the meditation continued and my eyes were still closed, still feeling my heart beat, I was flooded with gratefulness. I made the choice to accept the gift, revel in how amazing it felt, and practice giving that gift to others.

In the car, I now practice “It’s OK” as much as I remember to. And in the treatment room, when patients come in, clearing the air of all the ugly thoughts symptoms can bring on… “It’s OK.”
Couldn’t we all use a little more “It’s OK” in our lives?

Thank you, Abby.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Really? More nature?

"In order to increase our knowledge, we must be in dialogue with nature." 
- Professor S. James Gates, Physicist
I can't seem to get over the idea that nature still informs science. I think, really? Haven't we seen all there is to it on the Discovery Channel?

My story of the future is that we'll be living in the movie Minority Report. Nature will just be an accessory; we'll have found a way to create pure water out of nothing, and we'll keep trees around because they're cute, not because they oxygenate the air, root the earth or provide shade. We'll be over nature like a teenager is so over having parents.

I recently listened to a podcast from On Being with Krista Tippet. Krista interviewed Gates, a string theory physicist, who finds joy in solving the unsolvable questions of the universe (how about THAT for a life purpose). I was struck by his words above, struck that I have something in common with this brilliant man - we both investigate nature to inform our work. Granted, he teaches scientists about advanced mathematics and I may teach patients about age-old bowel movements....but both of us look to nature as our teacher, our textbook, our wikipedia, or google.

The basic laws of nature are my starting point when talking with a patient. For example, how are they in relation to time and space? How are they affected by temperature and pressure changes? How does their body change with more or less consumption of air, water, food and sleep? If a person experiences hot flashes, they may look flushed, have a red tongue, loose stools and rapid pulse. So I think, when there is a heat wave in summer, what moves it? A nice breeze to sweep it through or a sopping rainstorm to cool it down. Similarly, the body can open its pores to vent heat and/or activate its sweat glands to cool with moisture. I look to acupuncture points on the body that prompt these functions that are naturally occurring all around us as well as inside us.

No matter how complex our society becomes, we cannot escape the laws of nature. They bind us and they free us at the same time. When we don't sleep, our bodies shut down. If we don't eat or breathe, we cease. When our time is up, we pass on. And conversely, it is BECAUSE of nature that we could even evolve into an ever more creative tech-addicted modern society. Advancements are born from our ideas, which are electrical firings in our brain, which are only created inside bodies that consume air, water, food & sleep.

Going back to the basics never gets old.
Photo courtesy of Marie Pierre Nuthall

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Spring takes your body for a roller coaster ride

Before coming to acupuncture school, I thought seasons and weather patterns were just things that either made it easier or harder for me to get out and go places. Rain was a hair killer, snow was a drive killer, hot sun was a fair skin killer. What happened outside stayed outside. It had no affect on me other than that. Or so I thought. 

As I've been studying this medicine based on nature, I've learned how much our own bodies are ecosystems with built in seasons too. Our temperature rises and falls depending on the hour, day and season, and our landscape is either dry (alligator legs?) or rainy (swampy pits?). Our body clocks are affected by the time change. Our hormones are also directly affected by the amount of light the day gives us. Our skins is our largest organ, absorbing and protecting us from not only the sun's rays but also moisture and wind.

News flash: what happens outside is not staying outside. It's all up in your business.

I know spring as a roller coaster called "The Pissed off Life Lover". Every year I expect February to get less and less cold, so that March can grow warmer and warmer so spring can sprinkle it's magic on us with its sunny, 65 degree, bird-chirping, sit-outside-on-a-patio-enjoying-life weather. I've learned though, that part of spring is that one day it's a mess of a rainstorm -  freezing and windy - or the random snowstorm followed by a bright pollen-filled day. One day I'm in love with life: nothing and no one could be more beautiful. The next day I'm a sinusy mess ready to end it all for no apparent reason. It makes for a jerky ride.

That roller coaster feeling in this season is actually the norm. And that pissed feeling for no reason - also the norm. Now that I know it's a roller coaster, and I'm aware that what goes on outside is affecting how I feel on the inside, I'm more prepared. I fasten my seat belt and raise my hands in a screaming smile instead of a scary shriek. In other words, I wear layers, take naps, break out the neti pot(or do a spring cleanse!), drink water, and get a few acupuncture treatments to ease my way through it.

How are you feeling this spring?

(photo courtesy of Avi_Abrams' photostream)

I'll be talking more about this topic on Saturday, 3/10/12 at 10:30am at Crossings in downtown Silver Spring, MD. My classmate Rachel Brumberger and I will be talking about ways to ease into spring including tips about allergies, nutrition, rest, and activities that tap into the emotions that you may or may not be aware of that come with the season too! Join us! Register by emailing me.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Everything you need to know is in the Silence

I really, really like silence. Which is why I haven't posted fresh wordy blogs more often. When I do less and listen to the nothingness, my senses open up and I feel. Then I learn from what I feel. Paying attention to what's going on with the body and how the body feels is what I ask my patients to do. From this awareness comes answers about recovery. This is what I'm practicing: how can I do less and listen more?

Monday, January 2, 2012

Easy on the resolutions!

January, in our culture, has been coined a time for resolutions, a fresh start, a "new you".
Gym memberships skyrocket, sales of diet foods increase, and cigarette purchases dip.
This economic trend is just as predictable when it comes as when it goes - as soon a February rolls around. That's when we say, "Resolutions are meant to be broken, right?"
Change is the one true constant.
Chinese Medicine is based on change. Yin and yang were words created to describe the "shady side of the mountain" and the "sunny side of the mountain" respectively.  The ancient Chinese observed that over the course of the days, months, and years, the sun's rays cast shadows on the mountains. The shady spots and sunny spots were ever changing, moving and morphing into each other. Such is life. Our environment is ever changing. The seasons continue to morph into each other. We are ever growing (and then shrinking, once we hit a certain age!).
The game in this life is to be graceful in the midst of change. Can we find a way to be easy on ourselves when we make and break resolutions. Can we love ourselves when we're eating another piece of cake or smoking another cigarette. Can we embrace our aches and pains, watching them change when we move, when we wake up, as the sun rises and sets on our day. Can we gracefully be aware of the tension in our back in the midst of the meeting at work or the traffic jam. Can we stay flexible when our schedule fills up.
I'm practicing being easy with myself - less blame,  more love. Like they say to horses...."Woah... Easy girl."

Free community class! 
Winter is the perfect season to practice going easy on ourselves. Nature slows down this time of year: animals hibernate, water freezes, seeds sleep in the ground, and darkness keeps trying to tuck us into bed earlier. There are ways we can pay attention to the season so that we are easier on ourselves, appreciate the meaning of rejuvenation, and prepare for the bustling year ahead. Rachel Brumberger and I will be teaching a free community class about thriving in winter on January 21st, 2012, at Crossings in Silver Spring, MD at 10am. If you've found that you have a hard time in winter, or would like to hear more about a Chinese Medicine perspective on the season, we'd love for you to join us! Click here for more details.