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


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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!



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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Acupuncture added to conventional therapy for osteoarthritis of the knee improves function and reduces pain, according to a clinical trial conducted at the University of Maryland School of Medicine in Baltimore. "We now have a result that suggests, in the largest, longest and most rigorously conducted study of acupuncture ever, that we have a new (add-on) therapy for millions of patients with degenerative arthritis," Dr. Stephen E. Straus, director of the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, said at a press conference. ...continue reading

Results of a randomised trial in this week's issue of The Lancet suggest that acupuncture could reduce pain and improve joint functioning in the short-term for people with osteoarthritis of the knee.

Osteoarthritis most frequently affects the knee joint. Despite a limited evidence base, arthritis patients are increasingly turning to acupuncture, especially as side-effects of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs are common and wide-ranging. Around 300 patients with chronic osteoarthritis of the knee were randomly assigned to acupuncture, minimal (sham) acupuncture (superficial needling at non-acupuncture points), or a waiting list control. ...continue reading