Chinese Medicine and the Cultivation of Health



The Parks in Beijing are beautiful


Practicing Bagua at the Great Wall

Am just back from China, where I was enrolled in a two-week course in classical Chinese Medicine and the cultivation of health. We studied very intensively every day, with the weekends off to practice, sight see, and rest.


The Forbidden City

The Great Wall

The focus of the afternoon classes was acupuncture- various protocols and diagnostic principles, herbal medicine, moxabustion practices, diet, and even a little bit of Chinese astrology. We had a wonderful section on scalp acupuncture, which is so effective img_3595for neurological issues including pain, mobility, anxiety, depression, learning, autism, stroke recovery, and many more. We practiced on each other and used ourselves as case studies to enhance our understanding of diagnosis and treatment. How wonderful to think of lifting a weight from people’s lives by helping them activate their inner resources to heal.


Turtle Shell Moxa


Moxa Massage

The morning sessions were held outdoors in the park. We learned and practiced a form of bagua, as well as several different meditation practices- Buddhist and Taoist, all with the purpose of cultivation of health, strength, and capacity.

I am very excited to integrate my new learning into my practice. What has been most impactful has been realizing how essential it is to focus on health cultivation. As a culture, we don’t prioritize this, China was a better example.

I loved to see people out in the parks practicing martial arts. People would domoxa treatments, even in public, as it is well known that the application of moxa is restorative. The pharmacy had an extensive raw herb apothecary. Everywhere there were inexpensive spas where you could get massage, foot massage, and moxa treatments. The food was slow cooked and healthful, for the most part. The culture seemed to support people taking care of themselves, more than in our culture, which is so focused on productivity.

Taking care of ourselves, or health cultivation requires an active commitment. And it’s not just about the perfect workout or the newest and best supplement or dietary regime. We have to uncover those areas where we tend to go out of balance and commit to cultivating qualities that can bring us back to harmony.



The Buddhists have a concept and symbol of the phurpa or dagger, which is about the clarity to break through confusion and obstructions. The chant om benza satto hum gives us the ability to dissolve spiritual impurities and eliminate obstacles along the path to enlightenment that come from our past negative actions. Part of the Buddhist tradition is about acceptance and equanimity, but there is also an element of fierceness, that we benefit from if we can compassionately apply it to ourselves, where we absolutely don’t tolerate self harm and actions, thoughts, and attitudes which don’t serve our good.

We all have long standing patterns that stand in the way of our own self-care. One is the tendency to give too much and not take in enough. We can worry about others, which is draining for us. This is apropos of the season, as we are still in the time of the Earth element with the emotion of sympathy. What do we do about this? How do we have better boundaries? How do we really nurture self while fulfilling our responsibilities to others? Usually it is about subtle shifts in awareness. Review what is working and not working- where do you feel drained, where are you energized? Can you let go of things which are draining or do them differently? If you continue to do things that aren’t healthy- ask yourself why? What are you getting out of it? What do you need? How could you meet those needs in healthier ways? Can you be there for yourself first, and still be there for others?

One teacher taught me about filling up my heart and connecting to others by overflowing to them- finding my own endless source and helping to connect others to their own source through my overflowing heart.

As a health care provider, giving too much has been an issue for me. I would feel drained and compensate by consuming. I had to realize how important my health was, how much I wanted to live, and to recognize a kind of urgent situation where I have to set good limits on what I can give. I have to make sure my life is full of replenishments, and I have to avoid negative thinking- in myself and others- like the very plague that it is. I have to be fierce when my old attitudes about self indulgence show up and I have to tell myself to grow up, buck up, and do what will get me the results I want, not what I feel like in the moment (one more piece of chocolate or extra glass of wine). I have to replenish in healthy ways and only give to the extent that I can without exhausting my inner resources. I have to stay tuned in to my capacities and examine my motivation for giving. If I give from an overflowing heart, it often renews me, it is only when it is out of a sense of “should” that I feel exhausted.

We have to have a fierce love for ourselves, we have to think long term and big picture and overcome our less helpful tendencies, even when they are about doing good for others. Taking care of ourselves by using a good “no” is actually the best thing we can do for others. Om Benza Satto Hum

It is important to cultivate a sense of deep caring. This is not something that we should take for granted. We need to care deeply about quality, and not settle. We should care about our homes, and not allow clutter; care about our work, and not overextend; care about what we consume, and have it be the finest ingredients we can afford. Deeply caring is how we express our love. It is sometimes easier to not care so much or to care about the wrong things- how things look, the short term pleasure, the convenience- but caring deeply can create a framework for our lives which can bring meaning and reward and is a basis for the cultivation of well being.

Various specific practices can fill our wells, so that we have more to give. Diet and exercise are, of course crucial, but also time in nature, creative expression, meditative calming activities, and meditation itself. It is so important to give ourselves a break from our demanding thoughts and to just be. I really enjoyed the specific meditative practices I recently learned, as I could feel the qi building within, and actually see it moving between my hands. It was so nice to concentrate on something like that, and on breathing into the kidneys, and holding the hands over the dantien to bring up the Qi. There is always more to learn about self care, what is important is to recognize how essential good self care is, and to persist in practicing ways that work for you.

One idea that works for me is to have an adventure planned that I can look forward to.  Beijing was awesome and I love learning while traveling.  The chance to experience how others live and to take in the richness and variety of exotic cultures and different environments is so stimulating. It is very healing and helpful, as well as fun!

If you enjoy unusual adventures, consider joining me on the fabulous upcoming trip– Oaxaca, the Magic and the Medicine, Jan 19-30.  I can’t speak highly enough about this journey.  It is a chance to really shift to a deep sense of gratitude, blessed by so many things at once- the exploration of a beautiful land, the enjoyment of wonderful food, lovely places, and interesting stories, the safety of an intimate group, the laughter and fun of shared joy, lots of learning and new experiences, and the prayers and intentions of the healers we work with along the way.  Check it out

Calm the distractions, find your bliss

These summer mornings, with the air so luscious you can drink it, and the abundance of the natural world a green riot everywhere, I feel filled up with gratitude and wonder. That sense of being completely present to an exquisite moment is a very delicious feeling and not common enough. Too often, we are distracted from our bliss by the imperfection of circumstances, by some pain or physical challenge, or by an emotional tension- sadness, anger, fear, depression, anxiety- that whole gamut of icky draining feelings which can take over and run the show. Wisdom tells us that the key to happiness is cultivating mindfulness, or the ability to dim the clamor of the distractions and tune in more deeply to our one, precious moment.


One of my most helpful tools is an acupuncture treatment. A good practitioner can help me connect to inner resources, so that the distractions, be they emotional, physical, or circumstantial, don’t claim my attention as much. I can be less bothered by what is wrong, and put more energy into healing, changing the circumstances, calming the nervous system, and deciding how best to cope. As well as appreciating all the gifts and blessings that abound. As an acupuncturist, I love helping people get to a place where they can enjoy life more. I am so grateful that acupuncture is widely available, and even more, that I get to practice this ancient art.


Spending time in nature is a sure fire way to get back to the moment. Noticing what is present in the world around us, the goldfinches flocking to the tree with a commotion of twittering, the lily opening to delicate beauty, the wind ruffling the aspen leaves into a moving pattern of color and shade, everything helps to bring our own personal reality into perspective. Nature has rhythm and cycles and it is very helpful to remember that everything is transitory and brief. We have to seize each moment and appreciate it and recognize that the painful experiences will soon pass and change, and the moments of wellbeing can be deepened with mindful appreciation.


It is not an easy thing to maintain equanimity these days. The political and economic climate can be so frightening that we all suffer. There is a lot of misery, grief, loss, and fear in the world. But we can still take precious moments and enjoy them deeply, appreciating this miracle of being alive, despite the challenges. The more filled up we are, the more capacity we have to serve. And we can do whatever is possible to enhance our experience so that we can share joy and light. The world needs this. Our personal wellbeing is a small but important contribution.


Finding a way to be there for others is an essential aspect of a balanced life. Many of us dedicate a big part of our lives to giving to our family or to a profession that serves. Some of us find great joy in volunteering and donate to organizations that make a difference. For some people, giving is the norm, and taking in for oneself is the challenge. This balanced flow of giving and receiving is part of the Earth Element in Chinese Medicine and again it can help so much to look to nature for its models. We have to fertilize and water our own souls before we can share our true abundance with the world, and it is our job to find our source of renewal, so that we can overflow to others rather than depleting our own reserves.


A practice is widely recognized as a path to mindfulness. Whether it is meditation, asana, pranayama, or a creative endeavor, bringing yourself routinely to a place of surrender cultivates the ability to give yourself to the moment. I am not a daily practice kind of kid, as I love a life with the flexibility to do different things at different times, so instead, I have things I do each week and they include a yoga class, a weekly mastermind call, a writing group, a singing group, a forest walk, and these days- a cool plunge in the cold sound every day that I can. The combination of these things on a regular basis works for me to bring a wider world into my being so that my being can expand beyond distractions into a sense of wellbeing.


The other thing that helps me so much is to have an adventure planned that I can look forward to. Something that stretches me and is fulfilling and satisfying, something that lets my heart smile, that lets my wild soul feel acknowledged. I have been so blessed to connect with amazing opportunities for travel and learning. I love the chance to experience how others live and to take in the richness and variety of exotic cultures and different environments. If you enjoy unusual adventures, consider joining me on the fabulous upcoming trip- Oaxaca, the Magic and the Medicine, Jan 19-30. I can’t speak highly enough about this journey. It is a chance to really shift to a deep sense of gratitude, blessed by so many things at once- the exploration of a beautiful land, the enjoyment of wonderful food, lovely places, and interesting stories, the safety of an intimate group, the laughter and fun of shared joy, and the prayers and intentions of the healers we work with along the way. Check it out!

Coming up soon, also, is a fabulous retreat to Kauai to immerse ourselves in the culture of aloha. More details soon.

Yoga for Emotional Healing

How do you love, I asked the woman as I stared into her eyes. The workshop was about emotional healing through yoga and we had been divided into pairs. How do you love, I asked her as I took in the depth of her. This was work done late in the afternoon after four days of intensity and lots of warming up.

First we had sat across from each other, folded onto the floor, feeling our hearts connected and had told each other what we observed. I observe your lovely haircut. I observe your earrings. On and on, and we could see how superficial were the things we could notice with our senses. The real juice of life and of the magnificent being in front of me was dancing beneath the surface. But the looking at the surface brought an awareness of the depth, and love grew. This beautiful person who was sharing herself, her time, her openness with me, was a gift, a wonder, a stunning package of radiance.

Next we told each other what we imagined. I imagine you are tired, I imagine your life is full, I imagine you are happy and on and on. How much we imagine about others without knowing. Its mostly a guess, this communication thing, we can make an informed guess based on experience, but so much is projection and imagining. We have to ask, to really know. Then we asked each other what we were experiencing right now, over and over, can we articulate and refine our state, our moment one more time, one new way. And we could see how similar we were, and how we could remind each other of some as yet unexplored possibility of experience. Yes, I too am experiencing a sense of peace.

And, the love grew. Confronted with the humanness of this being, her sensitivity and willingness to share, I could only soften into our connection. We were melting. Melting into the moment and into each other. And we would break into giggles, and the exercise was nothing, but being together in each others’ lives, that was the miracle. Being human together, with our imaginings and our experiences- that was a miracle.

And then she was to ask me how do you love. And I would answer and she would ask again, over and over, since time was spacious and the only thing was the moment and the richness of it, and this exploration was bringing us into the thick field of shared humanity that connected us.

How do you love. I love by caring and sharing. How do you love, I love by chopping the freshest of foods into green goodness and serving the most delicious menu, everything ready at once. How do you love, I love by singing and feeling the song go out into the world like a prayer. How do you love, I love by putting my hands in the dirt and encouraging the happiness of the plants who want love too and the soil, moist, dark, and rich, reminding me of what I am made of and what I return to. How do you love, I love by celebrating our world with a sweet breath of air and the feel of the wind on my skin. I love by seeing the moonlight out my window, glowing the pale leaves, and dusting the ground golden. I love by riding the waves like a horse and letting the movement remind me I am alive. I love by touching and healing and by listening. I love by being quiet and holding a thought. I love alone and I love together. I love with joy and with sorrow. I love by letting go.

And I asked her the question, over and over, and she reminded me of ways of loving I hadn’t thought of, and ways I have never tried. And we as we talked and thought about loving, love grew, and we remembered what it is to love, and how to love, and we filled ourselves with love until our eyes started leaking tears of joy and we had to stop and laugh and could we please have a break because it was exquisite torture to go on, to go on loving so much. We were only two people in a workshop, and this love was big enough to save the world.

And then we were to ask how do you want to be loved and the answer was with care and attention, with wild abandon, with sweet gentleness. And over and over we told each other the depth of our deepest desire and our desire came from our deepest place, our most true place, the place inside us where desire is born, pure and possible, because there is nothing to block its life. We asked each other how do you want to be loved and we answered the truth that we knew long ago, before we listened to anyone. We want to be loved in the way that we know is possible because we know it in a place that has not closed down to possibilities.

And we could bring that love, those possibilities, that sweet gentleness and wild abandon, that care and attention, we could bring it into the room and transmit it from our hearts into the group heart, so the whole room could open to loving and being loved. So the whole room could feel how love had grown. And we were finally able to stop, and to collapse, and take a break. There is only so much two people in a workshop can love, before they need a nap and some chocolate.

Women’s Kayak Trip- Nine of Us Together

There were nine of us together on the beach. Where to put our tent? We chose a spot under the tree and later learned the tree belonged to a pair of eagles, who sat above us, lost in the green lace of the branches. They graced us with their call, and took our breath away when they soared up into the sky, white heads directed, carried by the high currents, out over the water, to survey, to glide, to dive, to hunt. So magestic, so stunning. And so we had our totem and our inspiration. Could we send our hearts free and soaring, wild, but directed, hunting for gladness and diving into life?

There were nine of us together on the island. We had kayaked there in a flock, a school, a pod. A wad, Sigi suggested, was what you would call a group of women. Wild and daring women. A hot wad we were, a tight wad, a brilliant wad, and we worked it, and we overcame, and we deepened and we shared and it was glorious.

Nine of us together. The trip had been planned for so long and represented so much effort and thought. So much organizing and pulling the details from work-tired brains. It was like a child for Spring Courtright and me, we had conceived it and brought it into being, and wondered why we were crazy enough to do it, and were so grateful for our craziness. We brought nine of us together and we all prospered and our spirits soared.

There were many challenges, first making the commitment. Once that was done, so many things shifted. There are unseen forces working on our behalf, once we commit, once we take a step, not asking how it will happen but knowing it will. There were so many concerns, the weather report was not good, the wind was going to be high, it was supposed to rain, how could we remember everything, how could we buy everything and sort it and pack it and lug it and lay it out and look at the bulk of it and how could we possibly fit it into the boats. But there were nine of us together, and somehow, somehow, we got the boats loaded and everything crammed into the kayaks, now so heavy, and somehow, somehow, we got the kayaks carried to the water’s edge, and somehow, somehow, we got all nine of us, geared up, and ready to launch.

And nine of us together, we made our slow way across the passage. And the wind was not too strong, and it didn’t rain, and the ferries went by and we crossed over to the other side and made our slow way to the island, paddle stroke by paddle stroke, through the long smooth places and through the rough chop where the currents converged, and the boats bucked and danced and felt alive beneath us, testing and teasing. The waves cast salt spray up into our faces as we sat deep, riding the water. The sky was luminous- patches of blue and glimpses of sun, but dark grey masses that reached from the sky to the water off to the south, the north, the west, but we were dry, we were happy. And finally, the last stretch, where the island looms and it seems to take forever, but then we landed, nine of us together.

And I was still wondering what if, and still wondering how we would ever manage, still wondering if I was crazy. We landed on the island and our usual campsite was taken. For the first time ever, we wouldn’t have our place, and everything would be different, even if the wind did stay friendly and the rain clouds did avoid us. But I looked around and I found another spot that could work, and yes, we could put our tent under an eagle’s tree, and there we were, nine of us together in heaven.

That was when I realized that these trips are protected. I had heard it said about other things, but never took it in, never felt the truth of it before. These trips are protected. We are held in grace, this is sacred work. We were taking women to set their spirits free on this wild island after paddling their hearts out. We sat around the fire in the evening and the stories came forth about the angel in the house, the women we were supposed to be, the unhappiness of being stuck, and the joy of claiming ones own self, and putting oneself first. We laughed and cried and shared. We open windows into our souls and invited each other in. There were nine of us together and it became a small group, a tight knit family of sisters of all ages. A small group with a shared wild woman’s heart, with the heartbeat of a mother, a daughter, a sister, a friend, a wife, and all the roles that seek to define us, but with a wild heart that soars above them all. There were many stories and they belonged to all of us, stories of struggles, and obstacles overcome, of fears faced, and dreams realized and others as yet unfulfilled. And we offered up our stories and ourselves to the goddess of wildness and spontaneity.

We stretched our bodies on the beach and held the warrior’s pose, looking forward into the future towards our dreams, our feet planted on the firm foundation of our life, the past behind us, with its learning, its challenges, all that it gave us to make us who we are. We made art with shells and driftwood and we shared readings and poems. We feasted on the most wonderful food and relished serving and being served. We sang our song and added verses: I’m gonna to let life move me, I’m gonna let it stir me deep. I’m gonna let it wake me up from that ancient sleep. I’m gonna laugh all my laughter, I’m gonna cry all my tears, I’m gonna love the rain, just as much as the sun, when it clears. And there was chocolate and there was wine, and there were nine of us together, being our wonderful selves.

We paddled again the second day, around the island, in the bright sunshine and still water, this time, seeing the clearness of the shallows, the life below, watching the ferries in the distance, and feeling our strength. We were experienced now. We took in the beauty of the blue sky against the green trees reaching toward heaven, and the shining water, moving and carrying us. The hot sun kissed our skin and the cool breeze was like the most expensive silk. The air was a delicious feast. There were the rough patches as we crossed over the bar, and it was hard for folks to turn to come into the harbor, and their was the young boy in the canoe who capsized in front of me and started to cry and panic, and all manner of things unfolding, but it was all ok. Glorious wad of women, nine of us together on the water.

And back to our campsite, in the evening hours, our familiar home now, we made more fabulous food and luxuriated in the abundance of all we had brought and all the detailed plans we had made. We had everything we needed. When we had first come together and were talking about what to expect, I shared that we would all help make the meals and clean up, and then I knew that to help set hearts free for these wonderful women, to help free themselves from the angel within that could burden their wildness, I had to encourage them not to help as much as they wanted to, to skip a meal and let someone else do it, to sit in the sun and write in their journal and do nothing, to receive and fill up. Because I knew that these women would show up and give their best every minute, and I knew that they needed to show up for themselves more and give their best to their own wild spirit and this was the point. This was the gift of the journey, to give ourselves the chance to be, to play, to forget our duty, our roles, and to find our soul. And to support each other in this, to share and to witness, nine of us together.

We packed up on the third day, after a glorious sharing of gratitudes, after a brilliant sunshine morning of fabulous egg scramble and a warm campfire in the cool shade, after a sweet soft eyed gazing at eagle’s flight, butterfly’s flit, graceful deer, and the tide taking its long out-breath to reveal the seaweed green beach. We packed up and we were merry, and there was more lifting and stuffing, and lugging, but not nearly so much stuff. And we paddled back and the wind calmed, and we worked our way out of the choppy areas, and watched the ferries pass, and we glided with the current’s help, and passed the seals’ curious faces, and the rocks revealed by the tide. And we came home: happy, wilder, and very grateful, nine of us together, our wonderful wad of women.

Yin and Yang- Bringing Balance

We are moving into summer and I just love it. The long light filled days, the progression of blooms, the warm weather and all the opportunities for outdoor activities. It is easy to overdo, though, as the call of nature is especially strong. And there are so many deeply disturbing things that we need to address, finding a way to be present and productive is essential.

As always, it comes down to finding balance. In Chinese medicine, key concepts are yin, yang and the balance between them. In life and health, this can show up as a balance between the inner and outer worlds, between integration and action, between activity and rest, between assimilation and movement.

As individuals, we have a set point regarding our inner and outer lives. Some people experience life as a deep, private, rich evolution of the soul. Others look to life to provide a photo album of activities and relationships that they have participated in which give life meaning and purpose. Most of us fall somewhere in the middle, we have a full outer life, that we call to us and manage, but we give ourselves time to integrate, to plan, and to appreciate. We look for outer rewards, but spend time aligning our focus on what we want, so that less effort is needed to manifest it. When we want to make a difference, we need to make sure our actions line up with our values, and that we set our intention clearly so that we move forward engaging all our resources and potential, both inner and outer.

Finding this middle ground means going with the flow as yin and yang transform into each other, and recognizing the time and place for all things. Our culture, unfortunately, tends to encourage us to stay in high gear all the time. The summer can be particularly challenging in that regard, as there are so many social opportunities, so much to be done, and the days are so darn long- so much time to do things. And it is natural to be more active in the summer; it is a more yang phase of the year. But finding time for quiet and integration is still really important.

All our activities are important because of how they fit into the fabric of our lives. How we feel about something is the most important aspect of the thing itself. We can only find satisfaction with our lives if we take the time to reflect, cultivate gratitude, and integrate our experiences into our inner sense of self. We can be on an endless quest for more, more, more, unless we give ourselves the time and space to take in what we have. The pause between things allows us to appreciate things that much more. And if we are a change bringer, we can become very dissatisfied if we don’t consciously cultivate the habit of appreciation.

It so important to nurture our inner bounty so that we have more of ourselves to bring to our outer life. Taking care of ourselves, in all the important ways, is crucial, and that means stopping to smell the roses, prioritizing meditation time, and giving ourselves the blessing of enough rest. It also means time for reflection, and scheduling empty space into our days.

Are you over booking yourself and racing from one thing to another. Do you have enough alone time and are you using it to build up your inner resources? Do you have a way to thoughtfully review your days or are you just focused on your to do list and what comes next? Are you so motivated to make a difference that you burn out and stop trying to “be” the difference?

Try pausing in between things to look around and appreciate the moment. Write a few things in a gratitude journal, so that you cultivate an awareness of all that you have, not just all that you need to do. Spend some time in meditation, just witnessing your thoughts flow by and not taking any action at all. Treat yourself to an acupuncture session and a loving energetic tune up. Give yourself a few hours each week when you don’t have anything planned and you aren’t trying to take care of business- instead turn to that most important inner business of allowing, receiving, integrating, and appreciating, so that you can return to your active life renewed, energetic, and in a healthy balance. And despite the challenges of living in this world, don’t forget to laugh and have fun along the way. Today is all we have- make the most of it!

Surrender and Trust, it will feel great!

With so much going on, it can be easy to feel out of control, and that can be pretty scary. We can invest a lot of energy in trying to control things, and how draining is that! All of our precious life energy can be sucked out to in a huge, even desperate effort to make sure things go the way we think they should, just to protect ourselves, and to make us feel safe, secure, and confident.

And the thing is- most things we can’t control at all. Certainly we have no control over other people, and no real control over most outcomes. We think that if we do certain things and work hard with a lot of determination, we will have certain results. However, as soon as a crisis shows up, we realize how little control we have over so much of what happens.

What we do have total control over is our attitude- how we act and what we tell ourselves, how we prioritize, and how well we take care of ourselves. So there are plenty of things that we can control and what becomes important is to focus on those things, and to surrender what we can’t control to the flow of life.

This has been such a challenge for me at times. When I want something, and I work really hard, I become really attached. I have learned that it is so much more useful to recognize when I have done everything I can, and then to let go of the results and just trust. Cultivating a sense of trust, and being in the flow, mitigates that fearful anxiety that can arise when we don’t know what will happen. Breathing into this sense of the unknown brings a sense of adventure and a feeling that, no matter what, we will be okay.   We have what it takes to deal with whatever comes. And this is so true when we are focused on taking care of ourselves, and aligning our priorities with what is important.

In Chinese medicine, the Wood energy wants to grow, it helps us create a vision and a plan, but it has to act in service to the Heart. All things must serve the Heart. There is no point in getting caught up in a plan if you lose sight of the overall goal- to feel happy and relaxed. And that is achieved by letting go more often, concentrating on being the best person we can be, staying compassionate, allowing rather than efforting, and getting out of the way so that things unfold as they are meant to, rather than as we, with our limited awareness, think they should. We are so much more powerful than we realize, and can accomplish so much just by setting intentions, and attending to things as they emerge, rather than trying to steer things tightly in a certain direction. We can actually create a kind of resistance to the flow of life with our need to control.

Ask yourself- “is this really within my control?”, and feel empowered by the answer. If it isn’t- step aside, surrender, trust, allow, and experience your own peaceful focus on those things that matter to you, that you can control, like your own self care.

Notes from Oaxaca

It is hard not to be caught up in the world of the mundane and have worries, regrets, and fears intrude into our thoughts.   We start to think it is normal to be distracted by negativity, to be consumed with practical matters, and to be concerned that there is not enough time, money, or space for joy. Whatever we were feeling when we arrived in Oaxaca, the whole trip was a gradual stripping down, letting go, oIMG_0956pening up, and connecting to fabulous energetic support to live in joy.


We started with a gratitude ceremony led by the sweetest of men, Laurencio. His wisdom and charisma, his song and prayers lifted our hearts as he connected us with the elements, the universe, and Madre Tierra in deep thanks and humble request for support and protection. He shared his life story with us, his journey as a curandero and gifted healer, who learned to channel wisdom and capacity to help others because of his deep commitment to serve.


IMG_0984Our journey took us to ruins of Monte Alban where we enjoyed a tour by an impassioned and knowledgeable guide who made the land of the ancient ones come alive and we could feel the inspiration of their wisdom.

Oaxaca City treated us to her gifts of art and vibrancy, excellent food, and beautiful architecture. There was so much to see and so little time, I envied those who had come down early to explore the city on their own.


We visited the bustling market of Tlacolula where people from all around the state bring their produce to sell- meats, cheese, handicrafts, fruits and vegetables- colors, smells, sounds, and crowds-so alive and vibrant!



Only our second day and we had seen so much. We visited the Tule Tree, 2000 years old, and then made our way to the home of a well known curandera, who treated us tIMG_1107o a beautiful lunch of Oaxacan mole, and hosted a sharing circle about traditional medicine, a lecture and demonstration of midwifery, and demonstrations limpias, or ritual cleansings. This was very moving, and we were all touched as the healer prayed, chanted, and used water, herbs, mescal, an egg, and other devices to speak to the spirit of the patient and encourage an awakening and a change. Discomfort arises to be released and we joined our voices in a moan, groan, chant, and song that followed the moving emotions in the room to reach a sense of peace and joy.


The next day we left early for the mountains, the Sierra Norte, up, up, up to 8000 feet. Laurenzo and a local woman, Sonya, led us on a botanical walk, sharing the medicinal properties of so many herbs and plants that grew wild around the village. Nature has a vast pharmacy and there is so much that we have forgotten and no longer use. IMG_1176We went down to the river where a family runs a trout farm and served us a fresh lunch then back up to the hillside to check into our cozy cabins with fireplaces, but no power as the electricity was out. Singing around the fire and enjoying the view… stupendous.IMG_1200 IMG_1208 IMG_1213 (1)    In the morning, fresh and chilly, half the group prepared to hike 8 miles through the forest to the next town, and the other half enjoyed a slow pace and a van trip with the luggage, winding through the mountains, drinking in the thin air, and the gorgeous scenery. We had a late delicious lunch when the hikers arrived and we continued with individual healing sessions or limpias with Laurenzo, spirits lighter and lighter, hearts opening, prayers answered. IMG_1240Laurenzo led us in a Temezcal or ritual steam bath that evening- very like a sweat lodge but offered in an adobe structure, the womb of the Madre Tierra. Offerings to the directions, gratitude to the sprits and ancestors, songs to soften the heart, herbs, steam, heat, and darkness to help us let go, release, and open.


We were becoming noodles- soft and flexible. With sharing circles, our group had created a sense of a group heart, a compassionate thread that held us together, where we could know safety and trust, where we could stand as witness to each other’s human path, and tap into the sacred place deep within each heart where the spirit resides, where we are all one and connected to all things. To feel that connected and safe was a gift. IMG_1245 (1)Laurenzo’s prayers and encouragement were all about finding joy- letting go of worry and negativity, basking in the magic and mystery of life. We could support each other in opening to more joy and in letting go of the little things that stand in the way- all those familiar niggles- they subsided and were calmed by the compassion of our group heart and the rising sense that something very powerful and beyond our understanding was at work here. We had only to relax and enjoy.


After breakfast we visited another ancienIMG_1302IMG_1273t site with an energy worker and artist, Oscar, and experienced some indescribable moments. One event was to walk us all out in single file with our eyes down and the to turn us, so that we looked up all together and could see that we were on a very narrow ridge, on the edge of a steep cliff, staring out at the vastness of the mountain ranges that was the Zapotec emIMG_1313pire. Incredible. Oscar then took us to the flat platform that was the ancient temple and again we felt deep gratitude for the elements, the universe, the Madre Tierra, and for the ancient ones with their wisdom and knowledge, whose lives were aligned with the seasons, the stars, and nature.









Another long drive brought us down, down, down out of the mountains, through the city, then up, up, up into the Sierra Sur, the other mountain range which we had to cross to get to the Pacific. We stayed two blessed nights up at 8000 feet at a permaculture and yoga retreat center that was a living example of love. Gardens thrived, hammocks beckoned, swings spoke to our inner childIMG_1389IMG_1460IMG_1453IMG_1433, fireplaces warmed us, the meals thrilled us beyond belief, our circles stirred us, and hikes beckoned. Damn we had fun! Thomas’s story of acquiring the property, creating his center, and moving there from Denmark was inspirational. He had a catering business before and his artistry showed in the meals he offered.


Another leave-taking- half the trip now over, we drove down, down, down, the mountains in tight, dizzying curves, finally arriving at a botanical reserve and incredible garden of Armando, a friend of Thomas’s, who was another visionary. He developed his gardens with an eye for beauty and also practicality with huge orchards of exotic fruits and a winding path through hundreds of varieties of haliconias and orchids, unbelievable lushness and beauty. The hammocks by the river were the perfect touch.

IMG_1587 IMG_1564 IMG_1612The lunch he served was another exquisite feast, but the best was yet to come- a dip in the river and the chance to swim behind the waterfall, where the falling water could beat against shoulders like a strong massage and the sounds of singing and chanting reverberated in the small cave. We played like happy children, refreshed and renewed.


Onward we went as the heat of the day disappeared into the coolness of evening but the road was endless, especially after we turned off the pavement onto the dirt road that went forever up into the jungle. The reward for our perseverance was great; we arrived at Elizabeth’s.


Our three nights at Elizabeth’s were like a dream. The days were full but slow- hiking, playing in the river, birding, taking a cooking class in the old plantation home kitchen, a circle of sharing on the long open air porch, giggles in the night as we tucked into what had been the bedrooms of the family, enjoying the old IMG_1724family photographs and the history and stories of this coffee plantation in the jungle, playing cards and origami… Cacao, coffee, bananas, coconut and much more grew all around and birds of all kinds flew by in flashes of color. We took naps in the hammocks and slowed down to the rhythm of Mexican life

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Elizabeth gave us a demonstration of her healing methods, a kind of soul reading. IMG_1670We all had private sessions with her and she read our energy and shared wise counsel about what we needed at this juncture. In the evening we went to her home and her ceremonial space and she led us in a full moon ritual on a large terrace freshly carved from the side of the hill. We danced and sang, and chanted that we were free, we used mud, and water, flower petals, and candles. We lay on the earth, we sang to the rising moon, we held hands, we tapped into deep old places that longed to express themselves. We howled and whooped, we splashed and giggled, we shouted, and stomped. We rose the moon up and loved her. We gave our everything to the moment. We received so much. We filled up and emptied out and felt fantastic.IMG_1765


IMG_1729 IMG_1774 IMG_1784 Home to dream and to rise up early for another ceremony in the river before breakfast. The cold water was a shock and it made us realize that anything is possible, we are empowered, we can endure, we can enjoy, nothing can get in our way. We splashed, and blew a gourd, and clicked rocks, and who knows what, but we were washed clean and serene, until nothing was left but joy.

And I had an evening ceremony for protection, as a leader, to give and receive without taking on, to hold a circle and have space for whatever and keep my own joy. I lay in the center and there were flames all around me and I was safe and moved and just a huge WOW.

Our time at Elizabeth’s was like nothing else, like no time at all, and like forever. We learned a lot and were left with a lot to think about. And we closed our circle and said goodbye and went off to the coast to drink in the sun and the ocean.








Our time at the beach was a blast of fun in nature- sand and warm surf, a boat ride in the lagoon with crocodiles, storks, cormorants, roseate spoonbill, turtles, iguanas and so much more. And then a trip out on the open ocean, whales and turtles, sea birds and dolphins. So much abundance of life! And food and hammocks and mescal and beer. We visited the turtle museum and the natural cosmetic factory. We hiked to Punta Cometa and watched the sun sink into the sea. We rose to the sunrise and played hard everyday.


It was hard to leave, because then it was off to the airport and back to the northwest with its rainy chill. But the memories will see us through. We went through a lot and gained a lot and we can see there is more to do…. life is like that. There is always more, always so much. So much joy available.   So much love available. The universe is there to support us. We are connected. Open up and take it in.

A Transformational Journey

We all want to be healthy, to feel happy, to be fulfilled and surrounded by love, to have a sense of abundance, to have a peaceful mind free from negative emotions.  What is getting in the way and are all these things connected?

This became the topic of a recent trip as we explored together what we could do for ourselves to change our lives or the ways we looked at them, to experience more joy.

This exploration brought us to some simple realizations and commitments to ourselves, and brought out the smiles on our faces.

One thing we realized was that we could make simple shifts in our priorities, just reframe things so that we put ourselves first a little more. We could commit to using a bit more of our time for self care in a way that would not seem overwhelming or impossible. Things like adding in a few yoga postures in the morning (why not?), doing a little less housework and a little more walking in the woods, not being so anxious to answer every email and return every call but to spend some time reading a novel, and mostly to accept the things we like to do and want to do and not listen to that voice in our head which wants to “should” on us, which wants us to have more, be more, and do more. Instead we want to prioritize those things that speak to our deeper longing for a rich full life.

It also became clear that the cultivation of gratitude for the good things was one of the most important shifts we could make. Life is a miracle, yeah it’s not perfect: lots of hardship, much suffering, and lots of loss- but there is so much good.

Think a bit and you can recognize the good and potential for good in your own life. It is much greater than your financial woes, it can help you through your fatigue and overwhelm, it is there despite your loneliness, it is there in your close relationships, and it is there in the potential of each day. The good is there when we take a moment to be in the moment and notice the flower, the colors, and the opportunity. Each of us found a capacity and a willingness to be more appreciative and grateful, and we could feel the joy rising up and shining out our smiles.

I love this quote by Melody Beattie: “Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos into order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow.

Forgiveness is another big piece. Letting go of the past and forgiving self and others is crucial work and a life long practice. It doesn’t mean that we need to allow inappropriate behavior or endure negative relationships. It means that we can stay in the present and feel peace inside ourselves when we engage our compassion and our good boundaries.

And what about health? We do know that many illnesses are stress related. And we are aware that health has an emotional component. There is definitely a correlation between happiness and good health. That is not to say that illness can’t strike at any time even to those who take good care of themselves and have a very positive attitude. But for most of us, self-care is a challenge, and putting ourselves first in small ways is a key factor in maintaining our physical health as well as our enthusiasm for life. When we decide to reprioritize, we make time for those things that serve us well. Consider acupuncture as wellness routine for you, and make that call.

An open heart keeps love flowing and all those good feelings. Notice where you are closed down and take a chance to be friendly and warm, connect to someone through your heart to their heart, and feel how good it is to smile.

An adventurous spirit frees the mind to imagine what if, to take flight towards amazing possibilities, to stay in the moment noticing what is there for us, rather than depending on a routine to see us through. Take a trip, sign up for a class, call on a new friend- these are all things that cultivate your adventurousness and can help you find your joy. Let me know what good things you are noticing…

And join me for an adventure. Coming up: Oaxaca- the Magic and the Medicine, Jan 15-25 2016, Women’s Transformational Kayak Journey- Sept 18-20

Health means Straight and Relaxed

In a Qi Gong class today, the teacher told us that the word for ‘health’ in Asia comes from the words for straight and relaxed. What a nice image. I can see it throughout nature- healthy plants growing straight and tall on a firm foundation; relaxed, moving and growing without effort, waving branches flexibly in the breeze. It is such a good model for living.

Too often, we can find ourselves, rushed, cramped, collapsed, or tight. Life makes so many demands, it can be a challenge to stay straight and relaxed. We want to push and effort through our days. Stress!  And that eventually shows up as physical pain and illness.

My favorite remedy is to find balance through mindful activity. I love doing things that move qi and that take concentration so that I don’t focus on my to do list and the million things on my mind, but just relax into the moment, thinking about what is at hand, whatever is calling me to be straight, to be a direct channel between heaven and earth.

I make sure to prioritize time for myself, and time for doing things that are important to me. It doesn’t have to take long, but a few minutes of yoga can help me straighten out after a long sit at the computer. Singing helps me relax when I have been thinking and planning a lot. Getting out on the water for a paddle makes me feel expansive and helps me counter all the contracting forces of life in the Land of Mundania.

We simply can’t find true health, and our best self, if we just concentrate on productivity. We need to incorporate those things that help us relax so that we can find a way to grow straight. Straight means a clear channel between heaven and earth. We want to be firmly grounded with a strong foundation so that the important pieces of our life receive the attention they need. And relaxed doesn’t mean collapsed or distracted. We want to relax and let the wonders of life move us, be spontaneous enough to take advantage of opportunities, present enough to fully appreciate the miracles around us, open enough to let gratitude stir us, and flexible enough that we can change with the winds of life and grow towards our dreams.

Health is bringing the life of spirit, heaven, into our daily lives, and putting a firm earthly foundation, so that we are rooted, grow straight, and stay flexible and relaxed, into our life as spiritual beings.

Acupuncture is a wonderful modality for a healthy life. If you want to be straighter and more relaxed, consider some treatments to help remove any blocks to the flow of qi, and to strengthening that connection to your inner resources, to the you that is a bridge between heaven and earth. Call today- 206 842-7706

Consider joining me on one of my upcoming trips. You can read about the Oaxaca trip here and the upcoming women’s kayak trip here.

The Power of Story

Talking to friends, counselors, and the wise ones in our life is a great way to have a chance to listen to ourselves and to our story. We can share our deepest feelings, knowing that we will not be judged, or dismissed, or have to listen to inappropriate advice that only makes us realize that we haven’t been heard.

And we can listen to ourselves. If we are open to inquiry, we can gain a lot of valuable information. What are we talking about and what does it mean for us? Why is this alive for us? Are we complaining or just musing about our feelings, and is there some wisdom to be gained from the things that bother us? Is there a different way to think about things, one that feels better?

So often, we need a venue for our concerns, and having our feelings acknowledged can give us the time and space to explore for ourselves, and to come up with answers about what we need to do and what changes would serve our growth. Sometimes reflective listening helps us clarify, and a kind of open-ended questioning can open up new avenues of inquiry. Listening effectively is an art, and can be really helpful.

In my practice, I always make time to listen to people.  So often, it guides my treatment as I intuit what the underlying and deeper issues are, the patterns of thought that are associated with physical ailments. Also, it is part of the healing. It is actually rare in our busy culture, where we are taught to be productive at all costs, to have the time and space to explore our concerns in a spacious way.

In my work with groups, I facilitate intentional story telling. It is a powerful practice. I like to give people the space to tell their life story and to create a group of compassionate, open hearted listeners , who can bear witness. Telling your life story can be an exercise in reframing your past, and healing old wounds as you can choose what to focus on, and notice how you worked through challenges, and overcame obstacles. When life gives us challenges, we can be tempted to be victims of our circumstances and sometimes, we tell stories that validate our victimhood and “get us off the hook”. If we can tell our life story from a place of responsibility, we can see where we are still stuck, but also how far we have come in creating our life as a journey that serves our growth.IMG_3104

Sometimes our story has us traveling through the fog. Sometimes we are blessed with sunshine. It is in recognizing that we have the skills to keep on, no matter what, that we can be grateful for all the circumstances that have brought us to where we are.

In both the upcoming Women’s Transformational Kayak Journeys and the Magic and Medicine of Oaxaca trip, I intend to use story telling as a way of deepening into the group experience and of growing in self-acceptance.