New Year’s Resolution – Add a Few Spiritual Goals

It’s that time again.  Time to dust off those old rollerblades, grease the chain on that bicycle, or dig out the workout videos.  Many a new year’s resolution is to get more exercise.  But, there is more to life than attainment of physical goals.  The attainment of spiritual goals are also important to a healthy, fruitful life.

I view the individual person as having three bodies:  physical, mental, and spiritual.  Obviously, the physical body is the one that represents you as a space occupying entity.  It is what people visually see of you.  Next is the mental body, which is how your brain sees you based upon your preconceived notions, sensory inputs and interpretation of data collected.  The mental body makes up  the conscious and subconscious activity of the mind.  Essentially, the mental body is what your mind sees, imagines and expresses (or limits) itself (and others) to be (and to do).  The spiritual body is the third part and some would say the most enigmatic.  The spirit is something that is not tangible or bound by the physical world.  Hence, it cannot be defined in the concrete terms much desired by those who cannot believe what they cannot see.  (My description of the spiritual body cannot amount to more than just a sample of its vastness, but I will try to touch on some simple concepts for the purpose of this blog.)

The spiritual body, or inner spirit, is what I consider the core of our existence.  We all have a higher purpose, or yearning within oneself.  The inner spirit of a person is that compelling desire inside to do something (or be something) that for some, may defy logic or principle.  It is a constant, undying voice inside oneself which emanates from the most altruistic place.  Hearing that voice and following its sound can bring joy, fulfillment and true happiness.

Another way to think about the inner spirit is as a guide.  Imagine you are in a forest walking from point A to point B.  You traverse a narrow footpath and occasionally wander off to see things that your mental and physical bodies are interested in.  But, you soon find yourself lost and hence, pull out your trusty compass.  The compass aids and guides you back towards the path again.  This compass is your spiritual body and the path is your purposeful, virtuous life.

Now, in case your new year’s resolution list is lacking some spiritual goals, you can still add them.  To use the previous analogy, your spiritual goals are markers on your path to help guide you on towards your meaningful life‘s destination.  Spiritual goals will serve as a gentle push to lead you back to familiarity when you stray too far.

Nourishing the spirit is a wonderful part of living a healthy, compassionate, and more aware existence.  By setting goals and following your inner spirit, you will align your physical and mental bodies as well.  The synergistic effect is a more centered, focused, and complete person.

Here are a few ideas to help you brainstorm about your spiritual goals for 2012:

  1. Meditate 10 minutes a day.
  2. Remind yourself daily that you are precisely where you need to be at this moment in your life.
  3. Resolve a few personal conflicts with family or friends.
  4. Make amends with someone that has been upsetting you.
  5. Volunteer your time and energy to a charity once a quarter.
  6. Donate to a worthy cause this year.
  7. Do something that connects you to humanity and benefits the greater good of your community, society, and/or the world.

Good luck in your spiritual endeavors for 2012 and I hope to see you somewhere along the spiritual path of your life!

An Enlightened Practice of Acupuncture

Old Chinese medical chart on acupuncture meridians

Image via Wikipedia

I came to acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine through a long and winding road.  My desire to affect people’s lives catapulted me towards the healing arts.  I left a mercenary career for an emotionally rewarding one.  I realized that for me, I was exercising the mind and body heavily, and my spirit was suffering.  From early on in my clinical studies, I found much enjoyment being with my patients and helping them achieve a healthy attitude and move towards living a healthy life.  I knew I was in the right place.  The ability to share knowledge and serve others was more rewarding to me than anything I had ever done in the past.  I was becoming a balanced mind, body, and spirit.  More human.

In these past years as an acupuncturist, I’ve learned a few things about my practice with Chinese medicine that I wish to relate to you, the reader.  Reasonably, I learned none of these ideas in the classroom.  The classroom prepares a student for exams, while real clinical experience prepares one for practical application.  With what is written here, you may find some similarities with your own practice.  Or, if you are a patient, you may find something here that resonates with your deeper self.

1.  Acupuncture cultivates awareness.  Awareness is my daily practice, my meditation, every time I see a patient.  I have to be fully present in order to do my best.  The very nature of an acupuncture practitioner is that he or she uses the entire range of senses for diagnosis, assessment, and treatment.  In my office, I am invited to be aware of the existing moment through the immediate use of my senses.  Awareness of the season, the time of day, the temperature of the room, the smell of the room, the sound of the patient, and the presence of my own mind are all constituents of this moment.  Just by focusing on the present moment, all thoughts of the past and the future fall away and I see what is in front of me.  I am grateful to practice awareness every single day.  If you believe in enlightenment, then trust that awareness is part of your journey.

2.  The patient is me and I am the patient.  There is this false idea that we are all separate, unique individuals that walk this planet.  But, that isn’t so.  Only for now, I am the doctor and you are the patient.  But, in another instance, I could be the patient and you, the doctor.  What separates me from you is time and circumstance.  At any moment, we could change places.  So, we are not that different at all.  In fact, we are all one and the same.  We all follow the same cycle of birth, life, and death.  This is a fundamental commonality shared among all living things.

Therefore, I treat that person in front of me with the same care and respect that I would (and should) treat my self and my own family.  If I treat you as I would treat myself, then my mind is less distracted and the way becomes more clear.  I choose to believe that nothing separates us but our own ego.

3.  I cannot cure everyone.  In fact, I can cure no one.  I assist in helping a patient’s body (mind, spirit) to heal itself by promoting a therapeutic environment using herbs, acupuncture, massage, and ideas.  The very nature of Chinese medicine is to guide the body back to a form of homeostasis.  My knowledge and understanding of Chinese medicine plays a large part in that guidance.  Another part of the healing equation is action on the patient’s part.  Many times, a patient is not ready to heal.  He or she may be attached (subconsciously or consciously) to his particular illness or disorder.  It is also my duty to assist the patient in understanding the things he or she may be doing to deter their healing process and whether or not I can help at this time.

Part of my practice of Chinese medicine (or any medicine) is showing the patient the path, and part of it is teaching the patient to walk the path.  The third part of my practice is helping the patient find a different path, if they choose.

4.  Acupuncture is a translation of vibrational energy.  Let me try to explain this idea in simple fashion.  Everything in the world is made up of vibrational atomic energy.  Atoms vibrate at different frequencies.  Atoms packed loosely together can vibrate at a high frequency, whereas atoms packed tightly can vibrate at a lower frequency.  It’s the nature of physics.  Every human being is made of multiple levels of vibrational energy.  Bones, muscles, and skin are the most dense physical level, or plane of human vibrational energy.  Due to the close proximity, the atoms of these more solid substances vibrate at a lower frequency (i.e. more slowly).   A higher vibrational energy in the body would be something like the brain’s electrical impulses that stimulate the muscles to move.

So, let’s assume that there are multiple vibrational energies, or planes in the human body.  All of the planes are vibrating at different frequencies.  Now herbs, as well as the acupuncture needles, are also comprised of vibrational energy.  By prescribing an herbal decoction, or inserting acupuncture needles, I am using one form of vibrational energy to affect the patient’s own vibrational energy.  It is up to my skills as an acupuncturist, to move, or manipulate the energy of the patient in a therapeutic way (i.e. to disrupt disease or illness).

This also goes back to #2 and further reinforces that we are all the same.  Physically, we are made of the same elements of atomic matter and vibrational energy.

5.  My practice is my daily life.  I practice what I preach.  I live and breathe much of the ideas that I share with patients.  How else can I know how certain exercises, herbal formulas and acupuncture points feel?  I wouldn’t want to see an acupuncturist that didn’t like to treat themselves with natural medicine.  The experience of Traditional Chinese Medicine on myself adds a deeper dimension to my understanding as well as my ability to relate to the patient.

To further expound upon the idea presented in #4 above, my own vibrational energy is standing in the room with my patient’s energy.  Of course then, we must affect each other on an energetic level.  (Call it the placebo effect, white coat syndrome, power position, or influence, whatever.)  My state of mind and my actions affect everything around me.  I have to have a clear mind and intention to perform acupuncture because these things affect my vibrational energy, and subsequently, the energy of the patient.  They affect my focus during needling, my diagnostic ability, and my ability to prescribe the right herbal formula.  Therefore, to cultivate this energy and allow it to flow, I practice meditation, qigong, acupuncture, and herbal therapy on myself.  It’s part of my desire to live the medicine and make this practice my life.  In Chinese medicine, this concept of vibrational energy is also called qi.

Acupuncture and Chinese medicine has opened up a whole new world for me to understand medicine, people, and the cycle of natural life and all things.  Hopefully, this generates some thought about your own acupuncture practice or even your life practice.  I’m always welcome to comments, suggestions, and questions!  Feel free to share!

The Yoga Transcendental Pose – Tanoti Asana

Yoga has really taken off in America and has become a huge industry in itself.  It is a mainstream exercise yet still maintains a little bit of a cult attitude.  There are those that practice yoga just for the physical exercise it provides and those that make a fervent daily ritual out of it.  American style yoga, though, is still devoid of much of the true meaning of the practice, which is a combination of philosophy, meditation, natural medicine as well as the physical discipline.  Ideally, the many stretches and poses are used to refine one’s purpose, and that is to unify mind, body, and spirit.  Or at least attain a realization that the three are already one.  Even more divine is the recognition that you, I, and the others are also one.  Eventually, the mind dissolves that individualist notion and there becomes no self and no other.  This awareness is the true goal of yoga.

There are many poses, or asanas. The asanas move the body, massage the internal organs, improve blood circulation, strengthen the muscles, and evoke the power of the mind.  This asana that I am to teach you is called Tanoti Asana and falls into the last category.  Tanoti, as many yoga practitioners know, means “expanding consciousness”.  Fittingly, tanoti asana helps clear the mind, enhance the vision, benefit the third eye, and as the name suggests, expands consciousness.

Tanoti asana is to be done at the end of a yogic practice.  In this way, it allows the prana, or circulating energy in the body, to perfuse throughout the head and neck area to balance the chakras.  The tanoti asana can also be done as a stand alone meditation to open the awareness and cultivate the third eye.  (It is recommended for persons well into their journey through yoga, meditation, and spirituality.  I do NOT recommend it for beginning practitioners.)

To perform the tanoti asana, you will need a small ball about the size of a tennis ball and a long tube sock.  A racketball, lacrosse ball, field hockey ball, etc. will do.  Put the ball inside of the sock.  Tie a knot at the top of the sock.  (An excellent alternative to the sock ball is the Sciaticare Ball by August Point Wellness.  It is perfect for this posture.)

  • Sit on the mat in a Baddha Konasana posture (Cobbler’s Pose)
  • Slowly recline until your back and head are  on the mat (Supta Baddha Konasana or Reclining Cobbler’s Pose)
  • Place the Sciaticare Ball (or your ball and sock) under the occiput with the ball in the depression just under the base of the skull.
  • The cord and handle of the Sciaticare Ball should be above the head.  (If you are using the sock method, the knot should be above the head.)
  • The hands should be placed in a modified Dhyana Mudra position with fingers extended and slightly rounded.  Now take the hands in that same position and put them over your head with the back of the palms facing the ground.  The hole that is made by the index fingers and thumbs will be where the cord (or sock) will go through.  You will close the hole to secure the handle and cord (or knot) between your hands.
  • With your hands around the cord (or knot), you will slightly pull against the handle to provide a little tension.  You will then tuck your chin towards chest while elongating your spine and extending your occiput away from the body.  The slight tension on the cord lines up the occiput and gives a little stretch to the cervical spine.

I hope the tanoti asana will invoke your third eye and strengthen your conscious and subconscious mind.  I hope that it will give you insight into yourself as well as your surroundings.  Awaken!

We are always open to comments, suggestions, and questions. Namaste.

You can also download this asana with pictures here:

Please visit August Point Wellness to learn more about this asana as well as view pictures.