I am a Chinese medicine practitioner and natural health educator.
My mission is to not just help people heal on a physical level, but to inspire and help them on all planes of their existence -physical, emotional, and spiritual- so they can make a positive impact on others.
In the past I focused on teaching people to take care of themselves in an attempt to cause a ripple effect in the world, but I now realize that I need to address the latter part of that equation more directly.
In Chinese medicine all Organs are considered to be interrelated.
When one part of a person is sick, all other systems are affected too.
This means that in Chinese medicine there is no way to just treat only one aspect of a person.
When you strive to heal one part, you are inevitably working to heal the whole.
Self-care is essential if any of us hope to make a difference in this world, because without our health we don’t have the strength to do the work that needs to be done.
But the motivation towards self-care has to be based in a motivation to care for others or it becomes empty and unsustainable.
Just as the different parts of our body are not isolated from one another, neither are we isolated from one another.
“You aren’t a drop in the Universe, you are the entire Universe in a drop.”
We humans are like cells within the collective organism of humanity, and together we are like an organ within the greater organism of the earth at large.
When we are imbalanced as individuals and as a society, the whole world suffers.
My goal now is to not just focus my work on the individuals, but on individuals within the context of the Whole.
Here’s the deal.
This past week it’s become clear to me that I need to dive in deeper and make a bigger splash.
I need to face my own fears, find ways to foster connections between people, show and give love to those who feel it lacking, support organizations that are doing work I admire, take action in my own community to help protect the environment, and set the intention to find ways to expand that action to make a broader impact in the future.
Together we need to make sure that when we take care of ourselves, we also give that care to those around us as well, both to loved ones and strangers.
We need to ensure that those ripples actually have a real positive effect on the world.
We need to voice our dreams, our perspectives, our experiences with Self-cultivation (capital “S”) and to share the Knowing (capital “K”) that has come from those explorations as often as we can, so that the healing that is desperately needed has a chance to reach its fullest potential.
I know I am only one small voice amongst millions.
I don’t claim to have answers.
But I hope that my speaking my Truth will entice some of you to crawl out of your own comfort zone and speak your Truth as well, and, perhaps more importantly, to listen to others when they dare to speak theirs.
It is communication that causes connection and movement, which then leads to healing.
So here it goes.
I believe in the inherent goodness of people.
I believe that hate and greed are only spawned by fear, trauma, and a lack of communication.
I refuse to believe that sexism, racism, misogyny, and xenophobia are as rampant as they appear to be when we consume too much media.
They are present in unacceptable proportions, certainly, but there is also an immense amount of goodness that is in the world which is not reported on.
We rarely see the smiles, the hugs, the encouraging words portrayed on the news, so they rarely have the opportunity to make an imprint on our collective psyche, and that’s a problem.
I believe that those loud few that do hold unabashedly hate-filled views have a deep pain inside of them, as well as a profound fear tainted by a lack of experience and exposure, which have caused them to misdirect their pain onto others.
I cling to stories like that of the mother who invited her son’s murder into her life.
Mary Johnson saw the pain that lived inside Oshea Isreal, who killed her son in a fight at a party. Through Mary’s act of radical love Oshea was forever transformed and has become a productive member of his community.
I believe that almost all of the people who voted in the 2016 U.S. presidential election want change.
Even those that didn’t vote want to feel heard, and for many the refusal to vote was their way of speaking up.
I think most of us are in that same boat, the manifestation in our actions is just different.
Stress is a constant companion for too many people in the modern world.
This chronic stress causes our sympathetic nervous systems to go into hyper-drive, directing all of the blood from our organs into our muscles so we might have the strength to fight or flee, depending on the threat in front of us.
The redirection of blood, away from our core and into the animalistic periphery, makes it extremely difficult to see the bigger picture, to care about anything beyond the immediate danger ahead.
For conservatives the biggest dangers seen are often the loss of jobs, the loss of status, the loss of freedom to spend our money as we choose.
Those of us with a more liberal leaning see a bigger threat in the loss of the environmental factors that sustain life, a loss of freedom to our self-expression, and a loss of community support for basic needs like food and healthcare.
We all fear threats from “others” who want to do us harm, but it might be argued that while conservatives in the U.S. fear this threat more from outside the country, liberals see a bigger threat from within.
Whatever danger we see in front of us dictates our priorities.
When someone powerful promises to take away our greatest fears, well, that promise often proves to be irresistible.
All of us fear the loss of security, the loss of freedom to live our values, and the loss of identity.
Nobody likes to feel threatened, and most of us feel that our very existence is threatened in some way by the political policies enacted by those with different fears, and therefore priorities.
This is a huge obstacle, but we need to find a way to harness our fears so we can use them to propel us into a more promising future rather than to let them cloud our vision.
It is SO easy to blame the “other” for our problems, but as long as we point fingers we will never get further.
Now is the time to take responsibility for ourselves.
Now is the time to take a good hard look at what aspects of us have lead us here, because each and every one of us is part of this mess.
We have to see ourselves as part of the problem if we have any hope of healing this situation, because we can’t change anyone or anything else if we can’t change ourselves.
Now is the time to embrace humility, to feel whatever pain you feel and let it move through you. To learn what you can from the experience and let it transform you.
In his book A Man’s Search for Meaning, Viktor Frankl discusses a therapeutic strategy that helps people overcome their phobias.
This method has the patient embrace the very thing they are afraid of, so, for example, a man who is so afraid of sweating in public that he never leaves his house instead embraces his sweating, shifting his attitude to see how much he can sweat.
Once he embraces that which he fears, his fear disappears.
Similarly, Pema Chödrön teaches a method of meditation in which you welcome in uncomfortable emotions, sit with them, and explore what they have to offer.
This practice doesn’t just soften the blow when bad things happen, it enables the practitioners to take grounded, strong, and effective action in their lives.
But it goes further still.
When this kind of practice is embraced, the individual develops a tangible groundedness and compassion.
Practitioners of this meditation soften into their vulnerability in order to become strong, and when others come in contact with this soft strength they can’t help but soften themselves.
You can experiment with this in your own life, even if you don’t want to adopt a strict meditation practice.
The next time you encounter a disgruntled service worker, whether it be a cab driver, cashier, a teller at the DMV, or you have an interaction with someone who is rude to you in some way, smile at them.
Give them a compliment.
Show them that they are heard, that you really do want to know how they are doing, that you are willing to listen, even if it’s just in a small way.
Watch them soften.
In my experience, it works every time.
Whatever side you were on in this past election, most of our perceptions are hardened and clouded by fear right now.
Before we can fix anything, we have to learn to soften if we want to become strong.
Structures that are inflexible break.
This doesn’t mean you should abandon your values or your anger.
Quite the opposite.
Softening is just the first step, but it is essential if you want to be effective.
I am not making excuses for hate.
I find it deplorable that people act out their fears by hurting others.
It’s baffling to me that we still have to have these conversations and arguments after all we as a society have gone through over the past few centuries.
But here we are.
In the human body, uncomfortable signs and symptoms point to an underlying pathological imbalance.
The state of unrest amongst our populace is a clear symptom that something is horribly out of balance in our Greater Organism.
In Chinese medicine, symptom patterns are seen to have different levels, moving from the most superficial level on the skin down through different aspects of a person’s physical, emotional, and spiritual physiology, until the pathology reaches the deepest aspect of the individual Being.
Another important aspect of this theory is that when moving out, when a person is healing, the signs and symptoms of the pattern will re-emerge as the person progresses toward a more balanced and healthy state.
In other words, all the gunk that was stuck inside, causing imbalance and pathology, often come bubbling to the surface as the person heals.
This healing reaction, as it is often called, can be mighty ugly and uncomfortable.
Yet, if we allow ourselves to go through it and fully experience the discomfort through all levels of our being (physical, emotional, spiritual,) then we come out the other side transformed.
We as a society are clearly processing out a whole lot of gunk right now.
Call me overly optimistic, but I am choosing to believe that all the hate, strife, and despair we see now are symptoms of a healing reaction.
All of the old pathologies that were still stuck beneath the surface of our collective system are making themselves visible.
Now that they’re undeniable, we can work through them and have the opportunity to re-emerge into a state of greater harmony, but the path is not going to be an easy one to walk.
“There could be no other answer to our meditation and prayers in dissolving hatred than to be placed front and center with it and be exposed. When a shift in a system has occurred, especially one that causes fear and discomfort, it allows for something strikingly different to appear, furthering our evolution as people…We are ready and have been waiting for this time. Our rage, pain, and anger are to be exposed if only for us to transform and mature with it.”
-Zenju Earthlyn Manuel
It’s like when you embark on spring cleaning.
Before you can clean anything up, you have to pull out all of your stuff.
At first it looks like chaos, and you might get overwhelmed at the mess you have to deal with.
You might get frustrated, angry, desperate.
You might want to run away and hide at the nearest dive bar or spa (whatever makes you feel better).
Eventually, though, you know you have to tackle the mess.
You become restless and uncomfortable living with it. And then, bit by bit, you take a good hard look at each thing you pulled out and figure out where it will best serve you, or you let it go.
After the tension of the chaos subsides, once everything has found its proper place, then you find yourself with more space to breathe than when you began. But you have to look straight at the mess and deal with it head-on before you can get to that sweet relief at the end.
There are three saying that have stayed with me since I began my studies of natural medicine.
The first is to “eat bitter.”
Eating bitter means that in order to heal, you sometimes have to take medicines that you find distasteful or difficult to swallow. But if you can move past the initial ick-factor then you will be able to access what you need in order to heal and, ultimately, to thrive.
The second is that we have to “walk through the fire.”
We have to let ourselves be fully present in intense experiences in order to be transformed, and in order to have what it takes to help others heal as well.
Transformation is not always fun.
It’s not always easy.
It can be really, really scary.
In fact, most of the time it causes a lot of pain, which is why so many of us like to stay in our little bubbles and keep things the way we’ve known them to always be, thank-you-very-much.
Tony Robbins puts it well: “Change happens when the pain of staying the same is greater than the pain of change.”
It takes tremendous energy, courage, and sacrifice to transform, and yet transform we must.
We have to be willing to shed our defenses, to open up and expose the most vulnerable aspects of ourselves, to walk through the proverbial fire and let it burn away the residue.
We have to allow ourselves to feel the hammers that the world strikes at us so we can emerge strong enough to mold the world right back and make it a better place.
Change is the only truth in life that we can rely on, so the more we can embrace it, the better we can ride the waves.
The third saying is to “peel away the layers of the onion and cry the whole way”.
Healing is not static.
Health and vitality are found in movement, which means that even in healing change is constant.
The idea of perfect health, of perfect balance, is an illusion.
There are many layers. When you finish one job, another task shows up in its place.
In reality everything we have in life is in a state of constant flux, whether we choose to embrace it or not.
The biggest task of all is to stay present, experience fully, learn at each interval, and find some sweetness in even the darkest, most chaotic spaces.
Easy for me to say, as an overly-educated white lady? Perhaps.
But pain feels like pain no matter where it comes from. We all have it.
I’ve done my fair share of looking straight at my own gunk and processing it out.
Still, I know I don’t come close to living as beautifully as the man who collects garbage scraps for a living in Thailand and maintains the smile on his face, day after day. But I’m doing what I can within myself, starting where I’m at.
All of the despair, frustration, and anger running rampant in our country and the world right now are clear symptoms that something is seriously out of whack.
We’re in need of serious healing, and it’s up to each and every one of us to do our own part in that work, within ourselves and within the Greater Whole.
I don’t know what the answers are to all of our problems, but I do know that part of the answer is that we need to listen, really listen to each other.
Nobody thinks that they are a bad person.
Everyone has reasons for what they believe, and those beliefs determine what they prioritize and how they act.
We need to be strong enough to seek and sit with the people with whom we disagree.
We might not come to an agreement on how to fix things right away, but at the very least we can start by increasing our compassion and understanding for why others feel the way they do.
Once we do that, ideas no longer seem as threatening.
People who are staunch and hardened in their beliefs soften.
Abstract concepts become humanized, and we can find ways to forgive each other, to be creative together, and to reinvent our collective reality.
Magic happens in connection.
I wish that our political leaders could fix everyone’s problems, but the truth is that they can’t.
Regardless of who is in charge, no collection of policies will ever be perfect for everyone, no matter how much we might wish that they could be.
It is up to each of us as individual cells in this collective Whole to muster up the courage to consciously step outside of our own comfort zones, explore the possibilities with humility and curiosity, eat bitter, walk through the fire and let ourselves be molded into something new and 10x stronger, and to peel away the layers and fully experience our own vulnerability.
Then and only then will our fears no longer seem so threatening.
Then and only then will our fears no longer cloud our vision.
Then and only then can we use our fears to drive us toward good.
Once we have nothing left to lose, when we can shed our identities and embrace the potential that is inherent in an unknown future, that’s when we can help each other create a better world.
We live in a shaky time.
Indeed, the very existence of life on our planet is threatened, let alone the human race.
But because we are all interrelated, every act of kindness, every sentiment of compassion, every supportive hand can make a positive impact on everyone and everything else.
If you can help someone walk out of their fog of fear, then they too will have the strength to make a change.
So while everything around you seems to be crumbling, when all you can see is the huge mess in front of you, be brave.
Cut through your fear and shape it into something useful.
Have faith in our ability to heal.
Roll up your sleeves, look at each problem head-on, reflect on your gifts and share them.
Vote with your dollar whenever possible.
Plant a tree.
Write open letters to people who have the ability to make the changes you want to see.
Take better care of yourself and do more for others today and tomorrow than you did yesterday.
Will it be enough? I don’t know.
But it’s the best shot we have.