Acupuncture and Inner Stillness

Water is the Element of stillness.  I picked up Hugh Prather’s A Book Of Games, from 1981. I opened it and there was a chapter about stillness. It was given to me by my beloved adopted family from Florida, and today I noticed the inscription, it was given to them by their relatives who live here on Bainbridge Island.  Still waters run deep and we are all connected in that depth.

His chapter the Dreamer moved me.  “There is no problem that a quiet mind will not answer, because all problems arise from intense mental activity. Stillness permits a gentle correction of perception to occur.  To see any light at all is to no longer see darkness. Any aspect of happiness, when chosen over mental pressure, will bring with it all happiness. And if one is happy, he is also kind……Say to yourself, ‘Today , I am the dreamer of this dream. Everything is therefore as I wish it to be. How, then, do I wish it? ‘And now bless everyone you see, and everything.  Today, no darkness is outside your reach, because nothing is outside of you today. You live the contents of your mind today, and only that. Today, there are no other minds.  So be still a moment, and forgive each thing within your mind. You wish a dream of love in which to move about, not a dream of angry judgments and of hate. Today, an entirely difference goal is yours: You rule the world. And you will the world into a kingdom of light”.

His book gives me hope, that I can find a place of peace and happiness.  Just like my meditation class and practice give me hope that I can loosen the grip that my wild horse mind and moods have on my spirit.  Just as my exercise practice gives me hope that I can stay flexible and strong by moving. Just as my moments with loved ones give me hope that I am deeply connected.  Just as singing, dancing, kayaking, laughing, walking, writing, and all creative focus, keeps me hopeful that I can feel full of life and can be loving and kind and at peace. As long as I am hopeful, I feel happy, and I feel that things are flowing.  It is interesting how it takes becoming still, to feel like I am in the flow, and it takes flowing and moving, to recognize the stilness. Still waters run deep.

What are you doing today to tap into that deep, still place where your dreams reside?  What are you doing to free the flow?

I am always moved by how acupuncture promotes stillness in the treatment room.  The pathways where Qi is stuck and not moving, open, and the flow allows for a deep stillness of the mind and relaxation of the body.  Physical pain occurs when there is no flow, when there is stagnation, or where there is a deficiency, where we cannot get what we need from our source.

The needles nudge the system to reset, to allow flow, to connect to source, to adopt a new perspective.  It can take a while for a new, healthy pattern to predominate.  Make regular 5 Element Acupuncture treatments a part of your wellness program, to help you access the deeper stillness, where healing occurs.  It is easier to stay well, then to recover.

Acupuncture is not emergency medicine or something to use as a last resort, when you have tried everything else.  Acupuncture is a lifestyle tool, like nutrition and exercise, which helps us maintain health, physical and mental.  You may need a series of visits if you have an acute problem, but we all need regular acupuncture “tune ups” to reconnect to our capacity to heal- body, mind, and spirit.

Call today to book an appointment: 206 842-7706


“Wash the Qi” and tonify the Kidneys- start the day off right!

To recharge and tonify the Kidneys and Qi, inhale, rub your hands together while inhaling. Place your hands over the dantien (it is located three finger-widths under the belly button). For women, put your right hand first, and then the lft hand over the right.  For men, left hand underneath and right hand over. Screenshot 2015-01-24 23.07.35Inhale, rub hands together again, then put your hands over your face, eyes, over your head, neck, shoulders, down your back, and lightly pound the area of your kidneys with an open fist.  Then continue to “wash the qi” down the back of your legs, and up the front of your legs and torso.   Repeat 3 times. This is a great exercise to do first thing in the morning.

Winter and the Water Element

The winter is a time for stillness and the building of potency on a deep level. Seeds sit under the snow and in the ground, holding their potential, waiting for spring before growing into what they are to become. Since we live in a culture that demands constant activity, we don’t cultivate the capacity to take advantage of the power of stillness. Many dreams and longings live inside us in a deep place, and exist there, half formed, a seed that needs some time to just be, before bursting forth into existence and growth. There are many synchronicities that we notice when we are moving slowly enough, meanings that appear when we take the time to reflect, and directions that emerge when we are not forcing things, but are very much allowing and surrendering to our capacity to be and not do. It is not an easy thing as we have busy lives and long to do list.

We come into this life with a heritage- physical, familial, cultural, tribal, and human and we grow out of that heritage into a unique individual. As we grow, we make choices based on what we know. The quality of our life is often determined by how well we can pay attention to our inner voice, that voice that can only be heard when we are still. We need to discern between what is truly meaningful to us, and what we have accepted as us, but is not truly who we are meant to be. There are appropriate compromises to make so that we can be a part of our family and culture and thrive in our society, but sometimes we neglect aspects of ourselves that are really important and adopt behaviors which don’t serve our highest good, in favor of something that isn’t really meaningful. Sometimes we have deep longings that want to be expressed. Stillness helps us to recognize those more subtle aspects of ourselves, which can be drowned out by louder more assertive forces.

There is much that is unknown about life. Some people are more comfortable with this than others. We don’t want to dwell on the fact that we all will pass on, but, on the other hand, we do want to embrace this fundamental mystery, that life is limited, and use that awareness to cultivate gratitude and appreciation. There are other mysteries also- why certain things happen and not others, the future is one big mystery really. Some people seek to control their lives to such an extent that there is very little mystery left, but even so, events occur that are beyond control and being comfortable with the unknown helps. Others develop strong religious beliefs that offer explanations and comfort. Adopting a set of beliefs that have been developed by others is not for everyone, some folks want a more personal relationship with the unknown.

The unknown, the mystery, the meaning and purpose of life, all of these deep subjects correlate to the Water element and the season of winter. This is the time to sit into what we don’t know or understand, and to become comfortable with that place of unknowing, that place that holds the seed to the future, and the deep connection t our ancestral roots, the place where we have some choice about what seeds we will cultivate and call into fruition. Rather than thinking about things, it calls for imagining and dreaming, to access a deeper place than thought, what would you want if you could have anything, how do you want to feel, what can you celebrate, what can you mourn, what can you let go of, what can you call in, where are you safe. When you attend to these questions from the deep bottom of the ocean where things sit as yet unformed ideas; small, subtle things stir and we move closer to the possibility of being who we are meant to be, the confident, radiant, loving being that we hold deep inside.

The Water Element is our deepest aspect, it is the keeper of mystery and holds our relationship with the unknown. Our longings reside there, our destiny, who we are to become, what we would love to express in the world. It is in the Water element and the winter season that we cultivate the potency to be our best selves.

Come Explore this further in a workshop: The Water Element, Exploring the Depths, Jan 25, 2-4, Dayaalu Center, Bainbridge Island. Register here.

The Metal Element and the Transformation of Grief


I recently listened to Martin Prechtel, Mayan shaman, talk about grief and praise, how they are interconnected. There are so many approaches to grief, so many ways to experience it and recover from it, so many stages of grief, so many individual expressions. Grief and loss have been huge in my life, sometimes so present and impactful, almost debilitating, sometimes a gentle reminder to appreciate deeply all the fleeting blessings of life- to love those people who are here with us, to appreciate each day before it is gone.

In Chinese medicine, the transformation of grief is the function of the Metal Element, corresponding to the autumn season. As my teacher, Thea Elijah said, ” That which is transient is now gone forever; the vitality which endures is now held deep inside. The teaching of autumn is that all things pass, but that what is truly precious lives on inside of us. Grief is the recognition that something of beauty and importance is gone from the outer world, but inherent within Grief is the capacity to identify clearly what we most value, even in its material absence. Righteousness is the capacity to prefer what Heaven values; to align ourselves with its vaster beauty and be fully graced by it; even when this involves personal loss”.

The Metal Element helps us move from a place of grief to a place of nostalgia and appreciation. While feeling the pain of loss, we can focus on the gift, the learning, the experience, what we have gained. And we can know that the most important things endure. Standing on higher ground, we can see the larger picture.

There is a teaching that all thoughts that are not productive are a symptom of a pathology. If we are stuck, if we need to go deep into a feeling and linger there, perhaps we need help to enliven our transformative capabilities. Enlightenment is said to include the ability to let all emotions move through swiftly and lightly. Most of us never achieve that, but we can move towards that, by releasing feelings as they come up, acknowledging them but not hanging onto them. That is not to say that there is not a process to grieving and that things have to be worked through and chewed upon for as long as necessary to extract what is of value and fully digest the experience. Some people take a long time to fully feel something and need to be with their grief for quite a while. The time spent feeling and grieving is productive in this sense, as it is moving them towards resolution.

A pitfall can be the pull of the drama, the feeling of aliveness that comes with the big emotion and the sense of connecting with others and getting needed attention by sharing pain. Tears attract the focus of the room. They also release pent up feelings and support flow and the transformative process. When we find ways to get support and attention, we don’t have to stay stuck in something dramatic just to be noticed. Taking in appreciation and creating connection is something we have to practice when we are feeling centered, as well as when we are in need of extra attention.

Grief and loss are a part of our everyday experience- nothing is permanent, we will lose all things. Coming to terms with grief, transforming it into appreciation, means realizing that we only grieve those things that we love. By feeling grief, we experience love. It is the other side of the same coin. A life without grief is a life without connection, attachment, or caring. A life stuck in grief and a sense of loss is one where the experience is not complete. Grief without the emergence of love and appreciation means that we have not let the Metal Element be softened by our Heart, by loving compassion. We haven’t extracted the gift from the experience, which is our real work here. Every emotion has a lesson in it, as we journey towards completion on this physical plane. The beautiful lesson of the Metal Element is to extract something precious and of great value- love- from our experience of loss and grief.

For more on an upcoming class on the Metal Element

Kayaking Clayquot Sound- Summer Fun!


Pt Roberts

Kayaking from Tofino to Hot Springs Cove, BC.  August 2014

We left Tofino on an overcast morning and found a remote secluded beach to camp on Meare’s Island. Spent a lovely afternoon on the expansive low tide beach.

I called for a departure at first light to catch the ebb, and we awoke to pea soup fog and bear tracks in the sand. We had an amazing paddle through the dense grayness. If I took my eyes off my compass, my rudderless kayak turned circles and there was no reference point of any kind. At least it was calm. We hopped from island to island, struggling to navigate while paddling. Islands emerged out of the gloom with rocks and bays and we traced the contours of the coastline on our charts. I kept my foghorn in my pocket, as motorboats would occasionally appear, zooming along through the dense fog.IMG_3104

Then we jumped off to cross the channel and paddled for an hour following the course I set and finally a surf line emerged just a few feet ahead. We landed on the beach and discovered that we had reached our destination exactly. Miracle! And I am asking Santa for a deck mounted GPS.

A beautiful hike on the wild side of Flores island and then guests for dinner as we met fellow kayakers who were so freaked out from a cougar encounter that they wanted to be close to fellow humans. Wolf tracks on the beach.IMG_3121

Fog the next morning and a long slog with waves on the quarter and a following breeze as we made our long hard squirmy way up Millar Passage with the flood. We went through Sulphur Passage on the ebb- perfect timing- and gratefully found a tiny place to camp on the other side of Shelter Inlet.

Another early start and we went against the tide, but before the wind could rise, and made good time in the foggy morning following the shore of Shelter Inlet. We vowed to stop several times and regroup unlike the long endless slog the day before. We filled our water containers with water running down a rock wall into the sea and stopped to stretch at every available haul out. Finally came to the moment of truth- we had to cross Sydney Inlet and round Sharp Point to enter Hot Springs Cove and we decided to do it, although conditions were not perfect, because the weather was predicted to deteriorate. The rolling ocean swells made for confused seas crashing around the rocks off the point, and it was a sweet relief to finally slip into the calm water of the inlet.

Two nights camping at the primitive camp ground in the cove and hours spent soaking in the hot springs at the edge of the ocean restored the body after so many hours in the cockpit. IMG_3161The 2 mile long boardwalk from the dock and campground to the hot springs was a work of art. Thankfully, we had organized a boat ride back to Tofino and the day was clear- it was amazing to see how far we had come and to drink in the scenery that we had passed in a fog. We thought maybe it was better that we hadn’t seen how far we had to go!  How great to know that we could do it.  Great trip, wonderful destination, and no, I won’t be doing that again any time soon.

Feeding Your Fire- Summer and the Fire Element

Summer and the Fire Element

Summer is upon us with its full Fire and, for those of us who are constitutionally drawn to that element, it is a wonderful thing. Fire people love connecting, love activity (especially social gatherings), and are more joyful, energetic and inspired in the warmer season. If your Fire Element is deficient, you may feel like you are dragging through your days, and may feel like withdrawing and taking time for yourself rather than engaging with others. For those who are normally outgoing and active with a healthy Fire constitution, the summer is an easy time to overdo and burn out. Tuning into the turning of the seasons means staying aware of your own needs and tendencies, and doing those things that bring you into balance, so that you can enjoy the gifts of each season.


The Healthy Heart

One of the organs of the Fire Element, the summer season, is the Heart. So summer is a good time to think about heart health. Circulation, oxygenation, exercise, and activity are all important. Sleep is an activity associated with the Heart, so it is important to get adequate rest, even though it is sometimes tempting to burn the candle at both ends with the long light filled days and the opportunities for social interaction. Connection with others is one of the functions of a healthy Fire Element, so opening your heart, and reaching out, engaging, and interacting are all probably calling to you now. This is a good time to give yourself extra permission to take time to socialize. If you didn’t get that closet cleaned out in the spring, maybe it can wait. Go to the picnic instead. If you normally hold yourself to a tight schedule or don’t go out of your comfort zone to connect with people you encounter, push yourself a bit to experience more spontaneity. Say hello with a smile to someone you don’t know well, and see how it feels. This is the time to act on those resolutions to allow more joy and playfulness into your life.


Protecting our Heart while Staying Open

The Heart Protector or Pericardium is another Fire organ in Chinese Medicine. Having a gate that opens and closes appropriately protects the Heart from hurt, loss, and vulnerability, also from over extending with relationships that don’t serve us. We sometimes connect too deeply too quickly and put too much trust into relationships which are not worthy of our trust. Or we consistently attract people into our life who bring us down or require a lot from us. Alternatively we might close ourselves off because of past hurts and not open ourselves to the good that is there for us. The Heart longs to be soft and loving, yet we do need to be discerning. We have to stretch our borders, learn to recover and forgive quickly, build our Heart’s capacity, and at the same time, protect what is most precious and dear to us, nurturing real intimacy with only a few. So many levels of relationship are possible. We have circles of intimacy, and time and experience determine how close we can become. We can stay in positive relationship with almost everyone if we recognize what kind of relationship will serve us. And sometime we have to set a clear boundary and let go of a negative influence.



Forgiveness is the path to greater connection. If you can concentrate on the good that is there, you can enjoy people and not let old resentments fester. We nurture our inner life with our focus, and we can use our inner Fire to burn through those walls we have built around our Heart and let the love shine. If we have one major piece of work in this lifetime, it is to work on loving more!


Nurturing Joy

Joy is the associated emotion of Fire, and we may feel drawn to play more in the summer. If your Fire element is out of balance, you might become exhausted with all the things that there are to do. Or if you have difficulty letting yourself go, or tapping into that well of joy and enthusiasm, if you feel depressed or disconnected, or if you suffer from fatigue, pay special attention to nurturing the Fire within at this time of year. Watch out about overdoing it with exercise on very hot days, be alert to signs of excessive sweating or face flushing, and drink plenty of water. Let yourself fill up with laughter, fun, relaxation, and sweet times with people you enjoy. Joy is often nurtured though creative expression, so sing, dance, play games, laugh, and cultivate the ability to enjoy the moment by tapping into the flow with activities that engage your full attention.


Finding Balance with Water

Spending time near water is a great way to nurture Fire as the two elements have a complimentary relationship. Water reflects our inner world, while our Fire Element determines how we relate externally. Maintaining a balance between these two is especially important during this season when the Fire element can burn so hot. Water can be a controlling, calming force and can help us become aware of those things deep inside us that are longing to be expressed through our outer relationships. The Heart Fire wants to warm the Kidney water while the Kidney steam wants to cool the Heart fire. This circulation of Qi provides the dynamic balance that lets us lead a rich full healthy life, where our inner urges lead us to appropriate choices that are fulfilling and renewing.


Foods for Summer

Cooler foods are appropriate in the summer. Generally Chinese medicine favors warming foods that promote digestion. In summer though, you want to clear any excess heat with more raw foods and salads and cooling foods like watermelon, cucumber, mint, and tofu. At the same time, it is best to avoid the urge to drink iced drinks all day long and instead develop a taste for cool spring water.


Harmony with the Season

The beauty of Chinese medicine is that it promotes harmony. It is up to us to develop awareness about our choices and to see them as part of a natural rhythm, with ebbs and flows. We can enjoy and cultivate those qualities that are natural to the season and avoid excess by staying tuned into how we feel. Sometimes we have to push ourselves to let go of a habit that no longer serves us, or try a new behavior that we want to incorporate into our life. We should use the natural cycles as an indicator for what is really appropriate and remember that balance is a dynamic state, a goal to aim for. We can constantly refine our idea of our own wellbeing. Remember that 5 Element Acupuncture helps you naturally find balance and move through any resistance. Feed your fire, find joy, open your heart, connect, express, forgive…why settle for less!

Greens for the Spring

Maria Cook LAc, EAMP

Springtime is an important time for Liver health, as the liver is associated with Wood, the element of springtime, and the fresh bitter herbs so prevalent around this time are excellent for detoxifying the liver.  Our body is designed to run on pure, unpolluted, unprocessed ingredients and so today, with all of the toxins that we are exposed to in our food and air, we need to pay special attention to cleansing. Illness can result from excess toxins- unusable materials on a physical, mental, and emotional level. The body has to work to eliminate residue from foods that are processed and low in nutritional value.  Strong emotions that are not dealt with leave a toxic residue.  Stress and a lack of balance and attention to our own needs, the result of our fast paced modern life, can result in a toxic load as well.  Healing comes from cleaning out these toxins and then maintaining a balance of intake and output.

The key to optimum health is a diet of whole foods with lots of fruits and vegetables, chlorophyll, exercise, regular elimination, good rest, and the cultivation of a positive attitude.

In the spring, especially it is important to reduce excess, and to take in a fair amount of sour foods as well as plenty of green vegetables.  Sour is purifying, bitter and pungent foods also. Avoid salty, heavy, sweet, and fatty foods. Fats, sugars, alcohol, coffee, chemicals, and dairy products exacerbate wood imbalances, giving temporary comfort at the expense of long term health.

Spring cleaning is iconic.  And now we know that it is not just our house that needs attention, but our liver and body as well. The body needs to get rid of excess waste and disease, and the spring is a perfect time for a fast or cleanse. Take a rest from food and drink juices of fruits and vegetables and/or water for a few days, and you will love the results. With any fast, make sure to get informed guidance.

Some great resources include:  Elson Haas, Staying Healthy with the Seasons; Kathy Abascal,  The Abascal Way to Quiet Inflammation; Bernard Jensen has also written extensively on the subject; Dr Oz:

One proven program is called:  Stanley Burrough’s Master Cleanser:

2 T fresh squeezed lemon or lime juice

1-2 T 100% maple syrup

1/10 t cayenne pepper

8 OZ spring water

Drink liberally- 8-12 glasses throughout the day. (Keep in a glass container and rinse your mouth to clear the lemon and maple syrup)

Herbal bitters-  Bitter medicines are beloved by herbalists. The bitter taste stimulates digestive processes, including the liver’s production of bile. Bile, part digestive juice, part waste product, is made by the liver and excreted via the bowel.  Herbal bitters are also known as Swedish Bitters.

Lemon juice-  The juice of half a lemon in hot water, first thing in the morning is a time-honoured way to start the day, and is an excellent wake up call for the liver. The sourness of lemons triggers nerve and hormone activation to the liver and digestive system. Very helpful for those who suffer from sluggish bowels.

Chlorophyll, found in many greens is strong, true healing agent. It’s molecular form resembles hematin, which, when combined with proteins, forms hemoglobin, the carrier molecule for oxygen in the blood, which purifies, detoxifies, and rejuvenates.  Chlorophyll works in plants to absorb energy from the sun, and water from the earth to make sugar, starch, and protein.

Locally grown and wildcrafted greens, full of chlorophyll, can assist in detoxification and health maintenance. Nettles are a wonderful plant and have amazing health benefits, with a long history of use as a medicine, as a food source and as a source of fiber.

Urtica dioica, often called common nettle or stinging nettle is the best-known member of the nettle genus Urtica Several subspecies have stinging hairs, which inject histamine and other chemicals, producing a stinging sensation on contact. They are easy to harvest, however, with gloves and scissors, just nipping off the top leaves before the plant flowers. Soaking stinging nettles in water or cooking them will remove the stinging chemicals from the plant, which allows them to be handled and eaten without concern.  Just bring your bag full of goodness home from the forest and dump it in a sink full of water. Then use tongs to move it into a pan of boiling water to cook for 5 minutes.  When cooked, Urtica dioica has a flavor that is somewhat nutty and rich, similar to spinach, and is packed with chlorophyll, vitamins and minerals.

Nettle has been used for centuries to treat allergy symptoms, particularly hayfever which is the most common allergy problem. It contains biologically active compounds that reduce inflammation. Dr. Andrew Wiel M.D. author of Natural Health/ Natural Medicine says he knows of nothing more effective than nettle for allergy relief. And his statement is backed up by studies at the National College of Naturopathic Medicine in Portland, Oregon.

Here is a recipe from Molly Watson, where nettles are made into an easy, super-nutritious, and delicious spring soup.

Stinging Nettles Soup    By Molly Watson

Like all soups, this one tastes best when made with homemade stock (but works just fine with store-bought broth or even plain old-fashioned water).

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 20 minutes

Total Time: 35 minutes


  • 2 Tbsp. butter, divided        
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 tsp. salt, plus more to taste
  • 1/2 lb. stinging nettles
  • 1 lb. potatoes, chopped
  • 6 cups chicken or vegetable broth, or water
  • 1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream (optional)
  • Sour cream, yogurt, or Horseradish Cream (optional)


  1. In a large pot, melt 1 Tbsp. butter over medium-high heat. Add onion and 1 tsp. salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until onions are soft, about 3 minutes.
  2. Add potatoes and broth and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to maintain a steady simmer and cook 15 minutes.
  3. Add nettles and cook until very tender, about 10 minutes. Stir in remaining 1 Tbsp. butter, pepper, and nutmeg.
  4. Puree soup with an immersion blender or in a blender or food processer in batches. For a silken, less fibrous texture, run mixture through a food mill or sieve.
  5. Stir in cream, if using. Season to taste with additional salt and pepper, if you like.
  6. Serve hot, garnished with sour cream, yogurt, or Horseradish Cream, if you like.

Makes 4 to 6 servings

Wheatgrass juice is tonic and healing agent and is frequently used in cleansing programs. Rich in chlorophyll, vitamins and minerals, an ounce or two really potent drink. Grow the seeds of hard red wheat on flats indoors over good seeding or potting soil, spread one layer of wheat, soak with water and cover with a dark cloth or plastic. Leave for 2-3 days. When the roots reach into soil and the wheat begins to sprout, uncover the flat and keep it moist in a sunny window. Within in a few days, you’ll have a 3-6 inch rich green wheat grass, which you can use. You need a special grinder to extract the juice.

Dandelion is another wonderful spring healer. The greens are very nourishing and are high in Vitamin A. The root is great for kidney, liver and blood as a tonic and cleanser.

Peppermint is good to drink as tea during cleanses as it is a stimulant and freshens breath and body odor.


Acupuncture at the Oso disaster

Very, very moving day at the Oso firehouse, control central for the huge recovery effort, at the Acupuncturist Without Borders supported clinic. community acuWe ended up doing 11 treatments at the community acupuncture station, which was a nice steady stream, not overwhelming, but we definitely felt appreciated. We treated mainly responders and volunteers, and they wanted to talk, share, and decompress.


firehouse hugs, meals, cameraderie, and chaosThe cameraderie at the firehouse was beautiful to behold, especially with so many agencies involved. The atmosphere was supportive, peaceful, and loosely but effectively organized. The Fire Chief and the leaders are so young, so friendly, just a great inclusive style. People were engaged in their tasks, whether that was just checking in with people stopping by, dealing with administration, managing the enormous amount of supplies that are showing up there regularly, or debriefing in small causal circles.  And there was a lot of hanging and chatting. Everyone was friendly- happy to talk, share, and give and receive support.  There was some breaking down, and as always after a huge event, the focus of every conversation was the slide, the aftermath, and the rescue efforts.  People have no room for anything else. People were coping with their grief by helping each other cope.


The acupuncture clinic had been set up by volunteers with Acupuncturists Without Borders, an amazing effort and really well done.  The ear acupuncture connects people to their own inner resources a bit more, so they can relax, sleep better, and integrate their experience. You could tell that the idea of acupuncture for stress reduction and emotional well-being was not a familiar concept, and there were many who just wouldn’t go for it.  Katherin&meBut momentum built throughout the day and many people will be back tomorrow and over the days to come. Volunteer acupuncturists from around the state will keep the clinic going. It was wonderful that there was three of us, as we could do a lot of outreach without leaving the clinic unattended.   We took turns wandering around the firehouse and engaging different people- the Red Cross mental health volunteer from Honolulu, the kitchen ladies who were mostly local, the volunteer firefighters from Everett who were spelling the exhausted Oso crew, the family from Snohomish who were manning the incoming equipment desk, the chaplains who had been listening to stories all week. Many people, once we had talked to them for a bit, decided to come for a treatment. Several had not experienced acupuncture before.  I know they will be back, there was a great sinking down of shoulders and opening of hearts.


So many people sharing…..and so many people giving. The huge outpouring of support and volunteerism was really heartwarming, the local people really appreciated it enormously! The treatments were really valued too.  Some used the opportunity to sit quietly and tell stories of the past days and weeks, and we learned so much about what people have been experiencing.  poster from the first dayThere was the Chaplin who needed to talk about being out on the pile with a group of responders when a baby’s body was found, and how the young military guy broke down and the Chaplin talked to him for hours until he felt better.  People helping people to feel better, spreading the grief out, making it more bearable though sharing. Nobody having to be alone.  Some women were there with therapy dogs- flown up by Alaska airlines, exhausted and in pain after almost a week of giving. The treatment was so helpful!  The young local college girl, who was coming back every weekend and every chance she got to help in the kitchen.  She wants to take over the annual Easter egg hunt, that had always happened in the Oso firehouse, now a central command station for lots of organizations and the huge recovery effort. She wants to give the children something normal, something to look forward to.  She is going to volunteer to make it happen, she wants to contribute.


And there was another young woman who burst into tears talking about how people had asked, ”how can you live there, in a slide prone zone?”- she felt judged, in pain, and she loves her community.  I listened to her and held her, and I know how much it helped.  Healing comes when people move beyond blame but sink into the pain of loss and let that be a wave followed by a wave of appreciation for the capacity of people to be their for each other.  So many people have come to Oso wanting to help. Oso letter


It is hard to take in the immensity of the loss to the community, but really enriching to see the human spirit rising to meet the pain, to witness people staying so present and engaged, and to feel hearts so connected to each other.  I am very grateful to have been able to participate.  Big thank you to AWB and all the others who are making this work possible.  Much gratitude to everyone for all the love and caring!  Makes me feel better about the world.  Oso Strong!  Oso hopeful!Oso strong


Ruled by the Heart

In Chinese Medicine, the Heart is considered the Supreme Controller. The Human Being is not a democracy, but is ruled by the Heart as Emperor.

“Does this serve the Heart?” is the important question to ask about all choices.  If we stray from service to the Heart, we become out of balance, we lose the harmony of physical, emotional, and spiritual health.  This truth is reflected in society as a whole, as well as in individuals.


Each element and organ system, each aspect of our self, has a function on the physical level and also on the level of spirit, mind and emotion. In the Chinese system, the organs are part of the governance of the body, each with a ministerial role.  In government, all parts are meant to support the founding principles and to function as part of a larger system.  If one aspect becomes too strong or powerful or too weak or lax, the government as a whole suffers.


The Wood Element, the Liver, serves as the spirit of the Planner or General, driving the individual forward with purpose and determination.  The upward growth of life in spring is a reflection of the upward surging qi of the Liver which moves past all obstacles in its quest to realize its vision and express its nature.  This is the energy of activism.  The pathological expression of its nature is found in anger or frustration – when the determination to express oneself meets the limits that life imposes.  One common challenge is when the function of the Liver is overdeveloped and it neglects its mandate to serve the Heart.  We choose to be right instead of happy, we fight for what we believe in, no matter who gets hurt, we want to do and have what we want, despite the cost. Bringing more Heart into the function of the Liver is to bring compassion and wholeness into our work in the world, without sacrificing our principles, vision, or determination.  This is the transformation of anger to constructiveness.


Grief, the emotion of Metal and the Lung, can be an end in itself if we indulge in a victim mentality.  “Look how hard it is for me.”  We seek to justify and understand our lack of feelings of self worth by staying stuck in an image of struggle.  If we use the capacity of Metal to serve the Heart, we can transform grief into nostalgia and appreciation.  The Fire of the Heart can warm and soften the edge of Metal so that we can accept loss and change and shine loving compassion on ourselves to nurture our own resourcefulness and ability to find inspiration.  We can grow out of needing special attention, blaming, resenting, and whatever coping methods we use to dampen the feelings of worthlessness.  The warmth of the Heart can help us understand that we are meant to move towards a connection to spirit.  We do not have to focus on how far we are from divinity in this human state, a common Metal pathology.


The Kidneys and the Water element are associated with fear.  Fear can be a driving force as we deal with survival issues, it can cause us to be greedy and grasping.  Stress can deplete the adrenals and cause damage to the kidneys if we allow fear to run us, using stress as a motivator.  Healthy Heart Qi descends and warms the Kidneys and the water of the Kidneys ascends and cools and moistens the Heart.  A balance between the Heart and the Kidneys is essential or we can have restlessness, insomnia, headaches, even mania.  We have to cultivate our Heart’s ability to trust as a balance to the stress, concerns and fears of life so that we can take compassionate action and stay rooted in the present time, not burning ourselves out or driving ourselves to exhaustion.


The Heart knows without words, the Heart is acceptance, compassion, warmth, and love.  The knowing of the Spleen is about the mind and thought.  Sometimes our thinking is circular and we worry and over-think something without any solution.  In Chinese Medicine any thought that is not productive is pathological.  Worry is indigestion of the mind.   Opening the flow of qi from the Spleen to the Heart can sometimes bring calm knowing into a worrisome situation.  Often a solution comes from a compassionate Heart space open to insight and forgiveness, not from thought.


If our Heart is open, we can connect to others at a satisfying level.  Through the Heart, we can connect deeply to the spirit that is alive in us and in others.  A group heart is created when people are connected by heart energy.  This will not be as evident if we stay stuck in our heads, harden our heart against hurt, or look to manipulate or control. We can expand our personal limits by connecting to the group heart, feeling the compassion and love generated by a circle of care. You can help heal another by opening your own heart to spirit, allowing your heart to fill and overflow, and sending them heart energy, through the connection of the group heart. This helps them connect their own heart to spirit, to their divine self, the source of healing.


Acupuncture, acupressure, Tai Chi, Qi Gong, and other modalities are tools that can help us to balance our energies and bring them back into service of the Heart.  Working with meridians and organ systems can effectively harmonize the flow of qi and strengthen those areas that need more energy, and release stagnation and congestion from areas that are “stuck.”  Certain acupuncture protocols can help the Heart regain its rightful place as Emperor.


Imagine the world if we all as individuals functioned in a balanced way, so that we understood about happiness and compassion, and were no longer motivated by fear, anger, greed, blame, resentment, etc.  Imagine if our organizations reflected our values and served compassionately with a bottom line of happiness, fairness, justice, and right action.  Imagine if we connected to others through our heart, and always felt connected to the group heart of mankind.  Just imagining makes my heart soar!



Elemental Harmony

The changing seasons remind us of all the forces within us that emerge at different times. We see this diversity also in the stages of life, and of any project, from potential to vision to implementation to maintenance to evaluation.  Everywhere there are natural cycles. These days, so busy, we forget the ebb and flow, and think we should be going full bore all the time.  We have to find time to plan, to evaluate, to meditate, as well as time to implement. In Chinese medicine, these stages or phases are referred to as the 5 Elements.  Understanding the interplay of these dynamic influences can help us attune to qualities within us. We can experience the benefits of achieving harmony and balance and understand the cause of illness, fatigue, and stress.

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