Heart Lessons Series: The Reservoir of Heaven

The Reservoir of Heaven, Tian Chi, the entry point of the Pericardium or Heart Protector meridian, and Pericardium 1

From Debra Kaatz’s “Characters of Wisdom”:

Tian Chi is a reservoir of heavenly abundance. It is the entry point of the Heart Protector meridian where it receives the inherited resources of the kidneys. We only need a drop of this vastness to see how life can be different, more meaningful and rich in spirit. When we have this fluid water of heavenly insight we can see how to protect our love and allow the gateway to open and close appropriately. Water has the ability to flow in powerful surges or to be reflective and calm like a lake reflecting the light of the moon in the stillness of a winter’s night. No matter how water is divided or agitated it always has the ability to find its way back to a place where it is evenly balanced. In this way it is always itself and needs neither adornment or ornamentation. It represents our inner essence and the very depth of our spirit. Out of our own deep inner source all things are fresh and inspired. Tian Chi is this reservoir of heavenly inspirations.

There are many images and functions in this paragraph about the first point and the entry point on the Heart Protector meridian. There is nothing magical or mystical about water’s power to find the lower level; to spread out to fill the container made available; and in the end to settle and be calm. It is factors like wind and heat that agitate and drive water into states other than its basic calm state.

Although the Heart Protector is a Fire official the comparison with water for this point is due to its name, which includes a “water” word, reservoir or container. The Heart Protector’s responsibility is simply that, to protect the Heart. The Heart must remain calm and serene in order to carry out its function as our Supreme Controller, our royal self. Thus calm should surround the Heart and settle errant energies to their lowest level.

Treating more than physical pain with acupuncture

I get asked many times a day about the uses of acupuncture. The most common known use is for pain relief like from arthritis or migraines or body aches and pains perhaps from an injury. People usually do not know that acupuncture treats the person as a whole. So if someone is coming to see me for neck pain and they also have other things going on like stress, and poor sleep; their treatment will encompass healing for all of that.

Acupuncture is not like physical therapy or chiropractic therapy. People expect needles to go in, around, or near the pain. Some times that does happen. Many times it does not. Most people understand that pain may be disrupting their sleep and causing an increase in pain and yet are surprised when the treatment for pain resolves their sleeplessness and alleviates their stress.

Acupuncture is not treating the symptom. It is treating the person. Each treatment is specific to that person and what is happening in their life at that moment. It is a personal medicine. And each combination of acupuncturist and patient is different. A patient may be seeing an acupuncturist for several months with pleasing results and go to someone else when their usual practitioner is on vacation and find the treatment hits closer to bringing about healing or vice versa. The practitioner-patient relationship becomes more than what the patient may be used to with Western medicine practitioners. Often we are sounding boards for emotional issues. Those issues are tied to what the person is experiencing physically.

For me, my physical issues are tied to what I am experiencing emotionally. A piece of acupuncture theory is that we have three levels; the physical, the mental, and the spiritual; sometimes considered the body, mind, and the emotional life of the person. Each person acts from a certain “home base” level. Mine is emotional/spiritual. My emotional state is reflected in my physical state. I use acupuncture to help me balance all three levels and is most often aimed at imbalances on the emotional level. Which is why I often recommend acupuncture for depression.

This gets really strange looks. People understand pain and pain relief but often don’t understand why “pain” on an emotional level can be helped with acupuncture. Physical pain in the world of acupuncture is an imbalance or block in a meridian or number of meridians. Therefore on the emotional level; stress, fear, worry, and depression are imbalances or blocks still in a meridian or number of meridians in the emotional energy of the person. These are the same meridians. Each meridian has a physical, mental, and emotional function. Thus disruptions can happen on any and sometimes multiple levels.

One of the most common examples I use is of the physical problem of heart burn. My patient is often rubbing their chest and feeling a heaviness or pain in the area physically near their heart. Despite the physical heart not being involved, the reflux of acid through the esophagus came to be known as heart burn. Then the patient begins talking about worry regarding their partner, about an unpleasant incident and how they worry that it has damaged their relationship. They are experiencing pain in their emotional heart. Now this is meant as a colorful picture and not a specific incident. I want to show how there is overlap between the levels and how injury on one can manifest on others.

Symptoms often manifest on more than one level. Patients will often come in expressing interest in resolving a physical symptom and then begin telling me about their over thinking brain; how they can not turn it off and ask if acupuncture can help. Yes, acupuncture can help because it works on all levels of our being. It works on our bodies, our minds, and our spirits.


Dry needling versus Acupuncture

Obviously this news program invited this person on air to demonstrate dry needling. Perhaps they will invite an acupuncturist to give their view.

I have about 3,000 hours of training in wide ranging areas that provide me with knowledge of human anatomy and physiology, the ability to correlate between a Western diagnosis and an acupuncture diagnosis, treatment protocol an needling techniques, and more. I can bring a person back into balance on all levels of the mind/body/spirit as well as help shorten a cold, reduce pain and inflammation and regain full range of motion after an injury, and so much more!

Dry needling certificates take about 40 hours of training to obtain.
You make the call.


The Holiday Blues

However you refer to the blues, SAD (often used and often inappropriately use term), holiday overload, or that feeling of sadness, overwhelming dread, and depression, I want you to know first and foremost that you are not alone. I will not quote a statistic. I am in your shoes. I also dance or rather not dance with SAD, seasonal depression, the winter blahs, and Christmas or holiday overload.

You and I often feel overwhelmed. We want to be or expect to be merry and bright but are far from it. We are blue, down, sad, lethargic, and often come of as just plan grumpy.

The ancient Chinese texts speak of winter as a time of quiet, conservation of energy, and caution. But what do most of do or think we should be doing? Running around at all hours of the day to decorate our homes, our office cubicles, buying tons of food and gifts, and generally wearing ourselves down. If I boil do the directives of these Chinese texts to quietness and to conserve and cautiously use our energy, does this activity sound in line with the season of winter? NO!

I realize it is sometimes difficult to change long established patterns, especially when they are enforced by our elders (parents and older generations). Even small steps to stay in line with how we should be living in winter can pay off.

Yesterday I stood in a crowded and mostly happy atmoshere chocolate shop to buy some good chocolates for family and friends. Reaching out to those around me to talk about recipes or favored chocolates on sale takes little energy. It’s the little things like this that help me through this time of the year. That and keeping up with my own acupuncture treatments. I know this is a time of caution for me.

Learn to watch out for things that will trigger you into a spiral or doing more than you can. Accept invitations to just a few parties. People know that often multiple events are happening each available day. Or just spend a little time at one event and then head home with some good food and a warm beverage on the receiving end. Do not over-extend yourself. Gradually the ripple effect extends so that those around us are doing the same thing. People respect those who set boundaries for themselves and understand why. Boundaries are not mean. They are there to help us understand how much energy we can expend without short sheeting ourselves to the point of sickness.

And unlike other posts, although acupuncture can help, what I feel is the biggest help is the understanding imparted through my acupuncture education on the ancient Chinese texts focus on living appropriately in each season. Normally this sort of advice comes from someone like you or myself walking into my office for an acupuncture appointment. With the needles comes words and support from me to you regarding how to come back into alignment with the seasons. As my teachers say, words are needles. Words can treat. Words can also hurt and perhaps we experience more of that than the treatment aspect. So this blog post is a giant seasonally appropriate treatment for you my readers.

I will be posting more on how to live in winter appropriately. This is a brief post, a conservation of my own energy and a reaching out to say, “I’m there with you”.

Insomnia and why our society can not settle down

We live in an amped up, caffeine fueled world with some twisted concepts. For example, commonly people get tired in the middle of the afternoon. So what do we do? Get a coffee or an energy and “power through”. What does the majority of Europe do? Take down time in the afternoon for a nap and then go back to the office. Why do we make fun of this when we get tired too? Our bodies have sent us a message, I am tired and I need to sleep. But we do not listen. Instead we ignore it and consume food to drink to help push our bodies past the tiredness. We do not nap. We make fun of people who do nap. Now I am talking nap, a period of sleep less than one hour in duration that recharges us. I am not talking about laying down and not getting up for three hours. That my friend is exhaustion catching up with us. And face it, it happens. A lot. Usually on the weekends where we already sleep late to “make up” for the sleep we did not get the other five days of the week. Guess what? It does not work. Make up sleep just does not work. We can not physically make up for inappropriate and insufficient sleep during the week by sleeping ten hours on two nights. Sleep does not work like that. Appropriate sleep is required all seven nights of the week.

Approximately eight hours each night is needed for an adult. We need to be asleep by at least 11pm, 10pm is better. In acupuncture theory, certain organs need to be at rest at certain times of the night. They regenerate during that time. If that sounds like something out of Star Trek, fine. It is true. This is not going to be a crash course in acupuncture theory. So I am going to relay pieces of theory within this article with what I hope is sufficient information of functionality to make this understandable. For instance the gall bladder organ needs to rest and regenerate during the hours of 11pm and 1am. The gall bladder in acupuncture theory is part of a team responsible for decision making and planning. Can you imagine having to make important decisions and plan something, anything without sufficient sleep? I want you to imagine making decisions on a multi-million dollar project with only a couple of hours of sleep and no access to caffeine. We can not do it properly. We describe those days as treading through molasses, everything is slow and somewhat painful. This is what happens because our gall bladder was up watching the late late show instead of peacefully asleep, getting its needed down time. 

I am asking you, my reader, why does our world not want to slow down and listen to its body? We claim to be active in fitness clubs and all sorts of cultural activities. We feed ourselves organic foods and buy free trade everything. We support countless environmentally sound concerns. Yet, the number one thing the human body needs to succeed is ignored and belittled and treated as something that we can “get around”.

Sleep is so simple. We have been sleeping since we stepped out of the primordial swamp. And for those of us who can not sleep, sleep is elusive; sleep becomes an enemy. Not everyone who suffers from insomnia fits the over amped, fast paced lifestyle. That is a stereotype that unfortunately is all to real in this world. For those of us who buy the sound machines; get blackout curtains; stop caffeine intake; and alter diets to attain the elusive sleep fairy; something is still missing.

Part of the ability to sleep is being grounded. This allows the body, mind, and spirit to settle and be secure in sleeping. Without being grounded our mind wanders around and thinks about everything from mundane tasks that were missed to worry about work related issue. Without being grounded our bodies tend to fidget and flail under the covers, issues like restless leg syndrome can often be traced back to this. And our spirit becomes defeated and instead of falling into a relaxing dream filled sleep, we experience nightmares and interrupted sleep.

During a recent session with someone suffering from sufficient lack of sleep, the person reported that they could get to sleep but not stay asleep. During the examination I noted a few things that ring the bell as it were. (Note: I always speak in generalities when I use a real life instance. Never is patient confidentiality compromised.) They were working multiple jobs, one of which often required late nights or shifting hours. They were not drinking sufficient water and were eating lots of small meals, more like snacks because they did not have sufficient time to sit down and calmly eat even one meal during the day. Within one session I was able to help them get to sleep and stay asleep. They also got counseling on why certain life choices were being detrimental to sleep. They understood the obvious one related work hours and had already made changes to that aspect of their life. It is almost impossible to relate how so many life choices alter our ability to relax and enter a peaceful and restful night’s sleep. But this is what I and so many of my colleagues do on a daily basis. We sit and talk with our patients about what they do each day. We relay how certain foods, drinks, habits, and activities undermine the ability to relax. And often it is not simply about removing things but adding things in to the daily habit that will bring about healthy sleep. Habits like drinking water; sitting down to dinner; and even 30 minutes of meditation or quiet time make a huge impact in moving away from the GO GO GO world and settling into a more even paced world where we can sleep.

Keep it Simple Stupid (Kiss)

My first mentor Craig says this all the time. “Keep it simple stupid”. I did not realize for a long time it is an acronym for kiss.

So to honor him and simplify my post today is brief.

Keep an open mind, body, and spirit to your experiences. You never know what can happen. Expectations can be limiting to your experience. Expect nothing. Get everything.

Where do you think the needle should go?

I get asked quite frequently about where I am going to put needles. Frankly I like to let the patient know where I will be needling, especially with a first time patient. I think doing this alleviates any concern a patient has going into treatment. The biggest response I often get is, “why there and not here?”. This happens a lot when people have pain in a specific body area.

Often with an injury I will needle near the area of pain using a treatment formula to alleviate a knot or help heal a sprain. But many times I am not needling into the pain or around the pain or near the pain. Why? Because frankly that can hurt quite a bit. Sometimes treatment is uncomfortable at the beginning and relieves as time passes. There are formulas wherein I treat the mirrored side of the body. There is a whole system of acupuncture that uses this theory. The oddest for the patient may be in that I use needles in ankles to treat areas of the neck and shoulder. The one I think I enjoy the most is using points on the back of the hand to alleviate neck pain.

Face it, this is why you come to me. To alleviate your pain.

I spent almost four years earning my Master of Acupuncture degree. I attend continuing education classes to learn new systems and theories to help my patients thrive. I also learn through treating more people. I discover combinations that are good together. I write them down, I remember them for future consideration.

People expect the needle to go where there is pain. Often that will bring more pain. My goal is to alleviate pain. Not cause more pain.

There are multiple theories on where to treat and how to treat. I ask questions and palpate the injured area to ascertain what is happening in the body. I then consult my knowledge base which often involves checking out some point information; taking a few minutes to formulate the treatment. I also take into consideration the patient. Knowing what works with them and what does not work with them. This is all added together to design the treatment to alleviate your neck pain.

So the next time I ask you to take off your shoes and I put needles in your feet to relieve your headache, think WOW, that’s really cool. Because you know what, it is really cool.

Breathing Space

People talk about breathing space all the time. They need a little space to make a decision. They need a little space when something traumatic happens.

This breathing space is needful in life. It gives solitude and quiet for the body, mind, and heart to work.

Birds space themselves out at the appropriate and needful interval on a telephone wire. Sometimes however we humans forget and we keep crowding in and crowding in when simply there is not enough space.

Breathing space is needed physically within ourselves also. Without it our lungs do not expand properly. We need free and easy breathing. And sometimes the hardest thing to do when in pain is to take deep, smooth breaths. It is a very “in the present moment” thing to do. To mindful breathe in. Feel your chest expand. Feel the breath go deep and push out the stomach muscles. Feel the breath all the way down to the navel.

The act of mindfully breathing in, especially during a time of pain, is very helpful. I encourage my patients to do so. It gives the space, that moment of clarity and calm. With slow, deep, full breaths one can grow that moment of calm.

The easiest meditation was taught to me as a prayer by a beloved Jesuit priest from my childhood, Father Frank Ernst. He had us children sit as quietly as possible and take a deep breath in and on the exhale gently and without force let the word Jesus come forth. This is very similar to the Om chant. It is an easy sound. And because of its roundedness, requires a fullness that produces openness in the chest. A breath prayer or chanting is provides the focus for the breath. We do not need to add sound. It is the act of focusing on the breath that is important.

Breath focus is used in meditation. Forget about gazing a lotus leaf or the vivid hues of the sunrise. Air is always within us and around us. To concentrate as we take a long, slow, deep breath that pushes down to the naval and to follow it mindfully out so that all the air is exhaled out is the best meditative practice I can do. I encourage you to do it. It requires no special equipment or place.

Close your eyes or let them rest downcast and not focused on anything. Take a breath in through your nose. Pull it down as far as you can. Early on you may only feel your upper chest expand. Exhale slowly. Feel your chest deflate. Take your next breath and mindfully expand your stomach to accommodate the space in your body instead of your chest. As you exhale your stomach muscles press inward and upward. The breath feels bigger. Continue.

Many people start their day with a few moments of mindful breathing. It is energizing and easy. Many also conclude their day the same way. It is a good practice to use and spreads throughout our lives so that instead of using it moments of panic, we use it in life and life is easier with mindful breathing.

On fear

Some of us may recall the line from the book “Dune” by Frank Herbert,

I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.

That line has stuck with me since I read “Dune” in 1984. Thirty years of pondering it. Interpreting it in a variety of ways to fit my life. When I put my lens of five element style acupuncture to it, I am reminded that fear is the emotion associated with the time of winter, the element water, and is a sign of water out of balance. In fear, water is frozen. It is unmoving. The total obliteration is the all encompassing fear that freezes me in place; makes me incapable of decisions; of rationale thought; and of living my life. Because to live, means to move.

Fear stops many of us in its path. It is how we dance with fear that matters. It is not a Hollywood style western stand off at high noon. It is not brazenly rushing past the fear into more of the unknown. Oh yes, we usually most fear the unknown. These things are all tied together. Winter, water, fear, the unknowing…. Think for instance of a classic (at least for the Mid-Atlantic states) image of winter. Snow piled high, covering shrubs and rocks and the broken lawn chair in the backyard. Snow or water has covered something and what is shown is but a lumpy reminder of the possibility of something beneath. But what is it? A sharp jagged rock or a bag of leaves that someone forgot to turn to mulch. We don not know and that causes an awfully large amount of fear. Many of us do not know how to be in fear without it encapsulating us. We freeze. The classic horror story sound of unexpected footsteps late at night. What do you do? Freeze in place? Dive under the covers. Or get up and turn on the light and look into the fear.

Fear can freeze our lives.

The point is to acknowledge the fear. This is really really scary part. I do not know how to get past this. I do not know what to do. And then you still move forward. Do not let the fear stop you and your life. Make a decision. It might not be a good decision or the best decision. And yet you do something and ice melts and the fear lets go, and you move.

Why am I writing about fear on my acupuncture blog?

I let fear stop me from writing and keeping this blog current. Fear is an emotional imbalance that I work with my patients in how to move while being in fear. This is my movement. In fear. Is it the best move? Eh. And yet, I am moving.