In-Depth Interview Pg. 3/4

What would you say you are the most effective at healing in your practice?  For instance is there a particular ailment that your patients have seen healed from their first session?

For some reason, I seem to be really good at helping resolve jaw pain (TMJ).  I've had numerous patients with intractable pain walk out of my office with their first relief in years.  I don't quite get it; it's not something I've ever suffered from myself and I'm not sure if it was even covered in my schooling.  I use a combination of acupressure (mainly that), acupuncture, and counseling around communication.  It's become something I'm very confident treating.

Another "ailment" I have great success with is depression.  Did you know that depression is one of only two mental illnesses (the other is schizophrenia) that is found in all the world's cultures?  I learned that in medical anthropology class.  Therefore, Chinese Medicine has been working on how to resolve depression for a very long time.  And we've come up with a very sophisticated theory on it.  In Chinese Medicine, we identify 5 different types of depression and each is treated using distinct acupoints.

This is where Jin Shin Do really helps.  It was created by a Western psychotherapist, so it involves counseling techniques that work with Westerners.  A lot of times, I've found, a large part of people's depression comes from not understanding the nature of what they're experiencing and the root of it.  Uncovering the root can take time, but understanding how depression works can give people a lot of empowerment in the situation.  And then acupuncture and acupressure (caring touch can be very powerful in and of itself in these cases) are effective at "raising the qi" and literally lifting a person's spirits.  Depression is also something that runs in my family, and I've experienced it quite seriously a couple of times in my life.  This, I feel, gives me an ability to relate and a confidence in the efficacy of the work.

In what way exactly, is what you do spiritual?   Are all the ailments and sicknesses that people struggle with partially, mostly or all rooted in something spiritual?

"Spiritual"... "of or pertaining to the spirit"... what a troublesome word.  What a maddeningly vague, abused, maligned and misunderstood word.  It means so many different things to different people and groups.  You know, I haven't described myself as spiritual in years, for exactly the reason of its broad and highly variably definitions.  "Spiritual"...  yes, I have to apply that term to my work, but I must also clarify what I mean by the word.  

For me, "spiritual" applies to two distinct things.  The first is a person's relationship with themselves, the world around them, and the experience of being alive.  You could call this a person's spiritual perspective.  The second is the intangible layers of a person's being- their energetic field and the representations of their organs on the energetic plane.  You could call this a person's spiritual body.

Now to the question.  The ways in which what I do is spiritual are likewise two-fold.  Firstly, there is an aspect of counseling that works with a person's fundamental worldview, with those aforementioned relationships.  This goes beyond and deeper then helping them work through specific events or issues, and goes down to the basic narrative framework of their life.  Identifying and shifting aspects of this framework that are limiting, disempowering, or otherwise self-defeating can be a tremendously powerful healing process.

Working with the other sense of the term involves accepting that there are aspects of our being that exist outside the realm of our mundane senses (sight, touch, etc.)  In this sense, "spirit" is somewhat synonymous with "energy" (another problematic word).  Our spirit is an intangible part of our being that influences, and is influenced by, our mind and body.  Through a decade of Qi Gong practice, I have developed what I consider to be some ability to sense this type of energy and to work with it.  Either that, or I have remarkably consistent shared hallucinations with my clients :)

As to whether disease is rooted in the spirit, this is my understanding: all experiences that we have involve all aspects our our being to at least a small degree.  Different experiences vary in the degree to which they involve each aspect of our being.  Illness is the same.  A common cold will be mostly physical, insomnia will be mostly mental.  Diabetes is mostly physiological.  However, in Chinese Medicine we see everything holistically and there will always be other parts of ourself involved.  For example, having a cold usually makes us less mentally acute and can depress our mood.

The spirit is involved in both of the senses I've discussed.  First, a great teacher of mine once taught us the distinction between our pain and the story we tell about it.  In many cases, one of the most important aspects of my work with someone is to help them have what I call an "empowered context" for what they're dealing with.  Many people have a sense of helplessness, confusion, and/or self-blame around their illness.  This relationship with their situation helps perpetuate it in any number of ways- often unconscious or compulsive self-sabotage.  People eat in ways they know are unbalancing for their condition, they take on unnecessary responsibilities and push themselves too hard, it can be as simple as habitually staying up late so they're always tired.  These things have nothing to do the illness itself; they are purely a function of the person's relationship with their life.  However, they quite significantly impact the person's health and recovery.  Helping someone see what is behind these patterns, and supporting them in relating to their world and themselves in a new way, is often a foundational aspect of the treatments I do.  Sun Si Miao said, "the Mind is the 1st determinant of health".

The second meaning of "spirit" applies to this question as well.  One of my teachers said that certain of our energy meridians are like the "blueprint" of our body, and our physical form manifests from them according to their condition.  According to this teaching, traumatic events or long term strain can disrupt these blueprint meridians with the result that our body will continually be in a diseased painful state even as new cells generate.  Acupuncture that activates and balances or "tunes" these meridians can have, in my experience, quite remarkable effects.  I recall a young man who was in a car accident and his muscles were continually developing a pattern of tension that contorted his body.  After working on the blueprint meridians, this phenomenon ceased.

"Spirit" is a very difficult concept to discuss in our society.  I am hesitant to use it in public settings, because it has a strong association with New Age healing modalities that have no solid basis.  Chinese Medicine explicitly acknowledges and works with Spirit, but we usually employ a bit of Coyote Medicine, so to speak, in how we approach it.

Are you continuing the tradition of master/teacher with anyone or do you plan on it sometime in the future?

Another great question!  Simply put, no.  Practitioners who are starting out sometimes ask me for advice, but I've never taken on a disciple in any way.  I really don't think I've been doing this long enough to feel at all confident even if someone were to ask. 

That said, I am very excited to teach.  Among the many hats I've worn in my life, I taught ESL (English as a Second Language) for a while, and loved it.  I also sometimes give workshops on holistic health, and they seem to be well received.  Once I decide where I want to settle, I very much intend to pursue teaching Chinese Medicine.

As for continuing the 1-on-1 Master/Student tradition specifically, I do not think it is something I can plan to do.  Such things, in my worldview, are decided by fate.  If such an opportunity comes my way, I welcome it.  If not, it is not part of my destiny.

Which discipline of martial arts are you and how do you see martial arts influencing your practice? 

I've trained a few martial arts in my day with varying degrees of dedication.  I'd say the one that has had the most lasting impact is Ba Gua, a sibling of Taichi that has stayed closer to its combat roots.  Ba Gua, Taichi, and Xing Yi are the three so-called "internal" martial arts; they focus on developing your internal awareness, coordination, and very fine motor skills rather than the "external" styles that focus on strength and form.

I have rendered someone unconscious in a fight, and have landed on my feet unhurt after being hit by a car and flying through the air; I consider these both to be testaments to the quality of the training.

Martial arts has influenced my medical practice in a multitude of ways.  On the most simple level, it has given me a good posture when I'm doing massage or acupressure.  It has given me a greater ability to sense tightness in people's muscles and how they might be released.  It has allowed to more effectively spread or focus the energy of acupressure and massage as needed.  Essentially, my ability to feel what's going on with bodies has been heightened.

Chinese martial arts follow the same metaphysical system as Chinese medicine.  My training gave me opportunity to tangibly experience many of the theories of Chinese Medicine, which confirmed their veracity for me and helps me to communicate them with my patients. 

In history, practitioners of Chinese Medicine have often practiced martial arts.  Wong Fei Hung of the "Once Upon a Time in China" movies is a good example.  One of the teachers at my school was also a high-level kungfu master; he came to medicine later in life.  They are like the Yin and Yang of a person's cultivation, you could say.

Continued in Part 4