Friday, December 23, 2011

Don't Read This If You Have Cancer

If you have thoughts, opinions, or personal experience you want to share please post a comment. This needs to be a community dialogue.

When someone is diagnosed with cancer, a number of things happen immediately on an emotional side like fear, doubt, confusion, anger, shame, guilt, and disbelief. Sometimes these emotions are followed by an invigorating and strong sense of hope and a winning/fighting attitude. Sometimes these emotions can also be so overwhelming they seem to bury you. Either way, I have often heard it described as “my life became chaotic in an instant”.

It is now immediately up to friends and family to support this person strongly and significantly. What do you say and what do you do? What should you not do? Of course the answers here are situational and depend totally on what the unique person diagnosed needs, but here are some things from my professional experience I want to list out:

1. Lots of hugs. Even if you never did this before, it’s not at all too late to show love, connect, and care. If this is easy – great! If this is difficult, practice until it’s easy!

2. Support the person’s decision on the course of their treatment and completely disregard your own opinion. If they opt for conventional (Western) treatment, good choice. If they are interested in alternative treatments and/or natural methods of healing that complement or take the place of conventional treatment, good choice. BUT – I’m going to discuss this below in a little more detail.

3. DO NOT start giving the person an abundance of books, articles, websites, supplement info, etc UNLESS they ask for it. I learned this one day when, in my attempt to help, I handed someone a book. They took me to their house and showed me long pile along the living room wall of over 50 books that well-meaning friends and neighbors had given them. “How on earth am I going to read all of these or decide what is worth my time or not???” I learned a lot from this.

4. YOU need to have and maintain a strong, winning, can-do attitude no matter what, especially if the person diagnosed either doesn’t have this, or needs it during their treatment/recovery. YOU have it so strong it’s enough for both of you, regardless of what the “expected” outcome is. I like to say that only the spirits know what will happen in the end, and as long as someone is breathing there IS hope.

5. Step in and help with family, house chores, driving, errands, etc. Don’t ask what is needed (the usual answer is “nothing, I’m fine”) – put yourself there and say “I’m here to go to the grocery store for you. Is there anything special you need or can I get you some staples (like bread, milk, toilet paper….)” “I cooked this meal and brought it for your family.” “I have 2 hours on Tuesday and will be here to help get some laundry/yardwork/dishes done.”

6. Laugh together. Find ways to do this – jokes, movies, stories. If you’re not sure, ask someone else for an idea or for their favorite belly laughing movie. I love “The Gods Must Be Crazy”. When the jeep goes up in the tree I’m crying on the floor every time!

Thoughts on Treatment Choices
When it comes to actual treatments, there are so many different things that work. I don’t believe, however, that there is just 1 thing for everyone. It’s so individual and the person receiving the treatment has to connect with it. Because of this, it’s important to support their decisions about their own treatment and help to find valid information from a variety of sources IF they ask or want more information.

How do you know if it a treatment is valid? That’s a huge and very debatable question. Here is my opinion: I believe that our body has a natural intelligence and that under ALL circumstances our body works for us, not against us to the best of its ability. Because of this natural intelligence there are things that we will feel or respond to, even if we have no logical or rational explanation for them. There is a Native American practice that completely embraces this belief: Have a healing circle, invite all of the friends, family, and a variety of doctors and healers. Have each healer and doctor tell what they have to offer, and how it will benefit the person. Have all friends and family share their opinions. Lastly, have the diagnosed person share what they want out of what was presented. Then follow through on that. (See: Narrative Medicine, 2007, by Lewis Mehl-Madrona, M.D., Ph.D.)

With the above information, it is sometimes very beneficial to have or find a natural-minded healer that has the knowledge and experience, and is open to embracing other methods of healing. Don’t know where to find this? Start asking people around you and somehow the person you need to find will appear.

Research on Spontaneous Healing
Now, on another note, there was a fascinating study done recently (2010 by Kelly A. Turner, PhD) about people who have experienced “spontaneous” or unexplained remission of cancer. Here’s a link to the study if you want to read it, but I’ll summarize some highlights here.

The following are attitudes and beliefs that stood out as commonalities among both the healers and healees. I think this is extremely important information to look and find ways to cultivate in both ourselves AND the diagnosed person. You might have to take the lead here, or in some cases step back and get out of the way so the person can do their thing and heal!

I’m copying some of this information from an article called “When Cancer Disappears: The Curious Phenomenon of “Unexpected Remission”, promoted by the Institute of Noetic Sciences (IONS). I believe they published this information so that people can move it forward, and that is my intention here so I hope permission is granted to share.

Belief #1: Change the conditions under which the cancer thrives.

The most successful recoveries seem to be strongly associated with major mental, emotional, or physical behavioral changes among the people with the illness. These can be drastically different for each person, but all involve change.

Belief #2: Illness = Blockage/Slowness; Health = Movement

This refers to a sense of blockage, or hindered flow, anywhere in the body-mind-spirit. This may be a physical blockage, such as chronic constipation, a mental blockage like an emotion that is stuck, or a spiritual blockage, such as having lost (or not found) a meaning and purpose in life.

Belief #3: A Body-Mind-Spirit Interaction Exists, and Energy Permeates All Three Levels

Most people live in their physical bodies only, and must discover their Mind-Spirit selves, connecting all three.

More important commonalities:

Changing One’s Diet

The majority of sources agree that a basic, good, predominantly raw, vegan diet along with fresh fruit & vegetable juices and various supplements is necessary.

Experiencing a Deepening of Spirituality

Many in the study described feeling love, feeling energy infused with love, feeling something incredible like God, your soul, your true essence.

Feeling Love/Joy/Happiness

Sometimes this is experienced during energy healing. You allow the feeling of pure love and joy fill every cell of your being and flow through your entire body.

Releasing Repressed Emotions

Many in the study also had profound experiences by looking at and releasing emotions such as fear, anger, and grief. How do you do this? First, just want to. Then act on the opportunities that arise from this desire.

Taking Herbs or Vitamins

Many people in the study considered this very important, and the variety taken was very individualized. There is no one answer for everyone, but there will be a good choice for each person.

Using Intuition to Help Make Treatment Decisions

This is going back to my point above about listening to the natural intelligence of your body and going with what FEELS right for you. It may also be that a healer intuitively recommends something that strongly feels right.

Taking Control of Health Decisions

The diagnosed person is in charge of their decisions and their will is to be honored and followed.

Having a Strong Will to Live

Yes! You need to support a winning attitude! No doctor has the right to place a time limit on a person. Besides, if they tell you, it’s usually an “average” that excludes the high end of the scale – and this end includes a very long, happy and healthy life.

Receiving Social Support

That’s us! Friends and family that care, support groups that understand and listen, just knowing you have lots of connections around you that believe in you and love you is necessary.

In conclusion, I think that people are wonderful, and if we have the chance to care and support our friends or family through a major illness, there is some kind of amazing beauty we will all experience that shows us in no uncertain terms how incredible this life is. I am extremely interested in your comments on this topic – thank you!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Where's the Mind-Spirit Part??

I've noticed something disturbing lately. It's been going on for a very long time, but it just came strongly into my conscious awareness recently. So I'm going to vent about if for a moment.

There's a stereotype, if you will, in the natural health community, about Western Medicine that all you do is take a pill to relieve the uncomfortable symptoms you are experiencing. The stereotype usually continues that 'how is this healing if you aren't getting to the root cause of the symptoms'?

I have been listening to and watching discussions about natural or alternative methods of healing. The disturbing part is, that all too often I see someone describe their physical symptoms and some other natural minded person advises an herb or a vitamin or avoiding a variety of foods to (cure) or take the symptoms away.

How is this any different from the stereotype of what Western medicine is doing? It's the same thing, but with a "natural" pill.

I would love to start hearing and seeing more discussions that include the emotional aspects involved, attitudes that are stuck, reasons the person's life isn't happy.

The physical symptoms are only 1/3 of the mind-body-spirit connection! Let's get to the attitude mindsets that need to be changed and how to do that. Let's explore REAL lifestyle adjustments and how they can be made. What challenges are involved in these changes and how does someone overcome and work through them to achieve success, and how does this correlate to the relief of their physical symptoms?

Let's hungrily acknowledge the mind-spirit part of the equation. Once this is addressed we might start getting somewhere. An herb or a vitamin or not eating white sugar is not all the answer.

Thank you for listening.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Cynthia's Top 10 List for Insomnia

Sleep is so incredibly important to our health in ways that we often forget. Good sleep helps us lose weight, improves our creativity, and even lifts our mood. Because the lack of quality sleep is such a common complaint, I would like to offer my top 10 suggestions for insomnia. None of these have any bizarre or undesirable side effects like many of the medications prescribed, and they all help your body get back to doing what it's naturally supposed to do, sleep like a baby:

1. Massage Therapy - on a regular basis if needed. Once a week for 2 months can work wonders to re-train your body into a relaxed state that can be maintained.

2. Meditation - the slow, deep abdominal breathing and gentle calming of the mind quiets the heart and preps the spirit for good sleep.

3. Self Acupressure - first, use your middle and index fingers to rub the area at the bottom and behind your ears. Second, massage your inner wrist crease at the indentation on your pinky side. Third, massage along your shin bone from your inner ankle, up about 4 inches and back down. Last, rub the bottom of your feet with special attention to the area just under the ball of your foot and also the middle of your heel. Spend 1-5 minutes on each of the above areas just before you go to sleep.

4. Essential Oils - Try Lavender, Rose, Vetiver, or Sandalwood. Either use topically by diluting them in a carrier oil or lotion and applying to the above acupressure areas, or diffuse them into the air by adding about 4-5 drops to a bowl next to your bed, then fill with boiling water.

5. QiQong or Yoga Practice - both of these mind-body exercises are excellent to smooth your energy and make you more aware of unhealthy responses to stress you may have. The breathing involved, like in meditation, gives you a different response to that stress.

6. Valerian Tea or Tincture - Valerian is a strongly relaxing herb that can even be used for anxiety attacks. Drink a cup of tea or put several tincture drops in water and drink just before going to bed, but don't use it for more than about 2 months. If too much valerian builds up in your system it can cause anxiety or nervous symptoms instead of relieving them.

7. "Body Like Jello" Relaxation - Go through each bodypart head to foot and focus on it while saying, for example "I feel my right arm. Release and relax. My right arm is so relaxed it feels like jello." Your mind is actually strong enough to evoke this physical response in your body.

8. Chinese Herbs - these formulas are very individual. Consult a professional herbalist or acupuncturist for a formula appropriate for you.

9. Hot Foot Bath - get a home foot bath/spa, fill it up with hot water, add 4 drops of Lavender essential oil, and turn it on. If you have the time, a full body hot bath works great too.

10. Just Turn It Off! - make the decision and follow through with just turning off your TV or computer. It's a choice and you're in charge.

Learn more about these topics from our On-Line Courses. You can study here at our school in Alaska from anywhere in the world!

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Quite the Dream!

I am currently a student here at OHAC and on Monday I came down with an unpleasant gum infection. (I promise there is a connection between these two points.) By Wednesday I was having trouble sleeping due to the pain and come Thursday evening, my cheek was swollen and half my face was a painful mess. Around 4am (this morning, Friday), I woke up due to the pain in my mouth. I couldn't even lay on the left side of my face. I thought to myself, "Man, I'm going to have to go to the Dr. This infection is just getting worse." My next thought was, "I hate going to the Dr. All they are going to do is prescribe antibiotics, which I don't want to take! My body knows how to heal itself. My body knows how to heal!" And with that thought, I was able to tumble back off to sleep.
The dream that followed was a fellow classmate called me and asked to come over for a massage. When she arrived, my massage room was perfect: candles, cozy, warm. She then mentions that she doesn't want a massage but would rather give me some energy work. So my dream self, gladly hops onto the massage table and curls up in the fetal position (weird) and settles in for some energy work. As the dream continues, my classmate provides energy work and then mentions my spleen meridian (which we haven't learned about in class yet). At the end of my energy work my dream ends and a new weird dream begins. My alarm goes off and it's been 3 hours since I was woken up by the pain. As I drag myself out of bed, I realize something. My cheek is no longer swollen, the pain is completely gone, and even my gums are back to normal! Holy Smokes!
I wouldn't believe it, if it wasn't my very own mouth! I couldn't wait to go to class and tell my classmates and Cynthia what had taken place! Now, the fact that my mouth had miraculously healed within hours of confirming to myself that my body knew how to heal during a dream energy session was pretty spectacular... but the insight that Cynthia shared once I'd told this story was pretty amazing too! She explained that mouth issues can be caused by 'stomach dis-harmonies' and one way to treat this is through the spleen meridian! Wowza.
It's pretty spectacular the things that can show up when we tap in to our innate body wisdom... And that was Quite the Dream!

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Spinal Stenosis

Physiology Research Assignment by Mike Thompson
OVERVIEW: Narrowing of the dimensions of the spinal canal is called spinal stenosis. The spinal canal is present inside the vertebral bones; it contains the spinal cord, nerve roots and blood vessels supplying the spinal cord and nerves.

The vertebral bones form the vertebral column (back bone). The reduction in the size of the spinal canal can compress the spinal cord, nerve roots or blood vessels that supply the spinal cord. Spinal stenosis is common in the lumbar level and rare in the thoracic region.
CAUSES: Spinal stenosis is often caused by spinal degeneration that occurs with aging. Degeneration is believed to begin in the intervertebral disk where biochemical changes such as cell death and loss of water content lead to progressive disk bulging and collapse. This process leads to an increased stress transfer to the posterior facet joints, which accelerates cartilaginous degeneration, hypertrophy, and osteophyte (bone spur) formation; this is associated with thickening and buckling of the ligamentum flavum.
The combination of the ventral disk bulging, osteophyte formation at the dorsal facet, and ligamentum flavum hypertrophy combine to circumferentially narrow the spinal canal and the space available for the neural elements. This compression of the nerve roots of the cauda equina leads to the characteristic clinical signs and symptoms of lumbar spinal stenosis.
Also, degenerative spondylolisthesis narrows the spinal canal and symptoms of spinal stenosis are common. Any forward slipping of one vertebra on another (spondylolisthesis) can cause spinal stenosis by narrowing the canal. If this forward slipping narrows the canal sufficiently, and impinges on the contents of the spinal column, it is spinal stenosis by definition. If there are associated symptoms of narrowing, the diagnosis is confirmed.
SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS: Spinal stenosis symptoms include:
  • pain
  • weakness
  • tingling of the legs
  • "radiation down the posterior part of the leg to the feet."
Additional symptoms in the legs may be fatigue, heaviness, numbness, leg cramps, and also bladder symptoms. Symptoms are most commonly bilateral and symmetrical, but they may be unilateral; leg symptoms are usually more troubling than back pain.
DIAGNOSIS: Some patients can have a narrowed canal with out symptoms, and do not require therapy. Stenosis can occur as either central stenosis (the narrowing of the entire canal) or foraminal stenosis (the narrowing of the foramen through which the nerve root exits the spinal canal). "The normal lumbar central canal has a mid sagittal diameter (front to back) greater than 13 mm., with an area of 1.45 square cm. Relative stenosis is said to exist when the anterior-posterior canal diameter is between 10 and 13 mm. Absolute stenosis of the lumbar canal exists anatomically when the anterior-posterior measurement is 10 mm. or less.

Plain x-rays may or may not show spinal stenosis. CT (computerized tomography) scans are much more useful for diagnosis. The preferred method of diagnosis is MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) for all areas of the spine. The detection of spinal stenosis confirms only the anatomic presence of a stenotic condition. This may or may not correlate with the diagnosis of spinal stenosis which is based on clinical findings of neural disfunction, motor weakness, bowel and bladder dysfunction, hyperreflexia and muscular atrophy.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Radical Acceptance

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Ever have an insight that made you feel so inspired you wanted to dance and jump around?  This is one I had the other day, and my heart felt so incredibly peaceful as I was pondering it.  I'll share:

Insight 11-6-11 while reading “Narrative Medicine” by Lewis Mehl-Madrona - an excellent book that I thoroughly enjoyed!

Wow - the Spirit of “Disease” changes, transforms, and spiritually grows just like we do. We are yin and yang to each other, necessary partners in our spiritual evolution. When we humans truly heal from a “disease”, we become a better person – clearer, more passionate about life, more compassionate to others.

And when we heal, the “disease” also heals and transforms into something better. I don’t think it just goes away or dissolves. But if we kill it as if it’s the enemy have we temporarily thwarted its spiritual growth along with our own?

As true healing begins, we might realize “disease” as a teacher, offering us valuable life-changing lessons that we haven’t understood in any other way. And maybe this is also the beginning of unconditional love the spirit of the “disease” has never known – or longs to know – or needs to know. As we stop hating it and begin appreciating it for the many ways it is changing our lives for the better, maybe it is our love and acceptance that teaches the “disease” to be free of its bonds of hatred, negativity, and loathing, and it moves closer to becoming one with unconditional love and oneness, just like we also do. What if….. this is the way to “eradicate disease”?

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Application of Massage Therapy Project

This project is to apply our learning's of massage therapy to help someone and demonstrate the benefits that massage can have on a persons life and health.  For my client I have provided 6 massages all at a length of 1.5 to 3 hours based on their desire at the time over the course of about 10 weeks.

Interview and chief complaint
I first had a interview/discussion with my client regarding their feelings day to day, general likes/dislikes, problems and possible complaints to address.  One of the main things I discovered is the client was very demanding of theirself day to day and because of that has a very high stress level.  Many of their mood changes were based upon work performance and completing tasks.  The client is going through many changes in life at the moment.  Based on this information and our discussion we determined the chief complaint to be stress.

Treatment options
I discussed some of the different massage protocols we have gone over in class and different techniques that may work to help relieve stress.  Over the clients lifetime they have only experienced 2 professional massages so we decided to stick to the general relaxation pattern and make modifications as necessary.  The client did suggest one of their favorite parts to massage was the head, neck and face massage so we decided to extend the time on that.

Over the 10 week time period we completed 6 massages all ranging from 1.5 hours to 3 hours.  For all the massages we decided to stick to the regular plan, here and there we made modifications when areas needed more attention.  The desire for a thorough head massage was present through all the massages.  The client requested 3 things most often and those are head massage, abdomen massage and work on the bladder meridian.  After we learned the bladder meridian pattern and I added it to one of the massages the client requested that pattern be in the future massages.  Most notably in the bladder meridian the client enjoyed the foot massage, working the bladder meridian in the foot massage almost instantly put the client to sleep each massage.

Over the course of the provided massages here are the most notable changes the client and I were able to identify:

    Reduced level of stress
    Improved quality of sleep
    Increased activity level
    Improved eating habits
    Improved flexibility
    Increase level of energy
    Reduced irritation from joint in foot
    Faster recovery of pulled muscles

All in all the project was enjoyable and it was great to discover the benefits of massage and help another experience a higher state of well being.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Learning Oriental Medicine with Massage

I am a recent student of Alaska Institute of Oriental Medicine and this is a brief summary of my experience in learning massage with oriental medicine.  Just to give you an idea of our schedule for learning massage I will outline our class schedule for you.  

There are basically two halves of school, in the first half we learn anatomy and physiology in the mornings and massage in the afternoon until we have completed the basic massage table and chair patterns and completed anatomy and physiology.  The second half of school we spend our time on oriental medicine and applications to massage practice with some specific patterns to help correct biological and physiological problems.

Learning this material in this order lets us full grasp the massage techniques and then teaches us why were doing what were doing and how we can improve what we are doing for ourselves and the clients. 

When learning oriental medicine you start to see how different parts of the body are connected and can influence one another.  You also see how you mind, mood, food, environment and other things can influence your health and state of being.  

With this knowledge you can help people significantly more with basic massage just by understanding their pain better.  Someone may experience frequent pain in a specific area on their body or experience a loss of energy and not have any explanation as to why.  

With oriental medicine you understand that areas of the body are connected and can influence one another, the pain may be referred from blockage in another part of the body or the energy loss could be something so simple as breathing properly and aligning posture.

In class we also learn basic qigongs and their application to a healthier mind and body.  We can advise and teach these to others as well as use them ourselves for self maintenance which is another thing that oriental medicine has brought to our practice.  

Self maintenance is the most important part of massage practice in my opinion.  By learning proper body mechanics, qigong and tai chi we as massage therapists can maintain our own bodies so that we are able to practice massage effectively while keeping our own bodies healthy and safe from damage.

We are not by any means certified doctors in oriental medicine after learning this material but that's one of the great things about oriental medicine.  Even with a brief understanding you can still see a profound change in your understanding of healthy living and its application to massage.  Although if you are ambitious enough to further your study with oriental medicine there is plenty of room to grow and further your understanding.

A students experience with the moxibustion belly bowl

I am a recent student of the Oriental healing arts center and this is a brief entry on my experience with the moxibustion belly bowl that we were given the opportunity to try in class.  Something to keep in mind when reading this is that I am a 25 year old male at about 195lbs and I have a fairly high level of energy prior to trying the belly bowl so my experience my differ from others depending on your own body.

The experience starts with assembling a belly bowl with a stick of moxa.  The belly bowl is a rubber cylinder with a metal frame that suspends the burning moxa stick above your skin where ever you decide to place it, mine was located directly above my belly button.  In class we set up massage tables to lie upon while trying this, we started by lighting the moxa stick and laying down on a table with the belly bowl in place.  From here I took deep full breaths and relaxed into the table.  

About half way through I started feeling sensations in my lower abdomen that would travel out to the rest of my body.  The feeling was almost an electricity or something similar to a double shot mocha, like my metabolism was being revved up.  By the end I felt almost a little sick but that quickly went away after leaving the class and getting into the rest of my day.  I noticed the rest of the day that my appetite had significantly increased and I had much more energy than normal.  I participate in alot of outdoor sports and I was amazed at how much I was able to endure in one day energy wise.  This increase in energy and metabolism lasted for about 3 days as far as I could tell.

After the first experience I decided I throughly enjoyed the belly bowl and did several other sessions before the end of school.  For someone with relatively low energy i strongly recommend trying this form of moxibustion, for those that already have a high level of energy I recommend that if you try this it may be a good idea to try this for half a moxa stick at first and possibly a full stick later after you experience a little first.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Essential Oils - Tips on Good Books

People often ask me to recommend a good resource for researching and using essential oils. There are so many great books out there, but here are my top suggestions. These are also some of the main textbooks I recommend in my On-line Essential Oil Certification Course. I have no financial interest at all in any of these. Links are provided for your convenience.

For a total beginner, I like any of Valerie Ann Worwoods books, such as “The Complete Book of Essential Oils & Aromatherapy”. Her books are filled with exact recipes that let you begin to play around with making blends. Once you get the feel for it, you can change them a little to be more personal for you. I compare this to cooking – you get a great recipe out of a book and make it for dinner. Everyone likes it, but the next time you make it you add a little more of this and less of that, plus your own secret ingredient because that’s how YOU cook. But you have to start somewhere.

It’s very important to do research on the essential oils you are using. You should always know what they do, methods of use, cautions and contraindications. The main book I pull off my shelf for this is “Essential Oils for Healing and Ascension” by Kathryn Sharp. This book provides an alphabetical listing of essential oils with bulleted information on the physical, emotional, and spiritual properties of each oil, and the information applies to any brand of essential oils.

A great companion to this book is “Aromatherapy Guide for Healing and Ascension” also by Kathryn Sharp, also applies to any brand. This book gives an alphabetical list of symptoms, with a list of suggested essential oils for each one. In this way, you can look up – for example – anxiety. From the list of suggested oils, you can see which ones you already have in your stock to use, or maybe get an idea of one or more you want to buy and try out. You can go back and use the Essential Oil guide to read specific details about each oil on the list to help make your decision about which one(s) would be best to use.

Kathryn is my inspiration and original teacher in essential oils. Literally living an essential oil lifestyle, she has put many years of work, experience, and direct knowledge into her books and I can’t speak highly enough of them. Her books are self-published and well worth every cent! Click on the links above to order directly from her website, or if you’re local to Anchorage stop by Alaska Institute of Oriental Medicine. I try to keep a set in our bookstore.

For more advanced research, I like “Medical Aromatherapy” by Kurt Schnaubelt. I love his scientific background and strong attitude about health and healing. His book is a little more technical by going into the chemistry of essential oils, but this is great information you can use to back up many claims of effectiveness. He also outlines a number of important essential oils, and has a section on their application to a variety of symptoms. I have used his recommendations with great success. (UPDATE: 2012, his latest book, The Healing Intelligence of Essential Oils is a wonderful reference.)

My newest favorite is “The Essential Oil Cookbook” (now re-named as “Weigh Less, Eat Like Royalty”) by Menkit Prince. The author is an Australian woman with a background in Oriental medicine. Her recipes are incredibly delicious! What a fun and healthy way to use essential oils.  If you want to really explore the many benefits of essential oils that go beyond putting them on your skin or smelling them, you need this book! 

Hope this helps you out!

Cynthia McMullen is a Master Massage Therapist, Internationally Certified in Aromatherapy, and teaches outstanding courses in Oriental bodywork, Five Element Nutrition, and Essential Oils at Alaska Institute of Oriental Medicine, Acupuncture & Massage Therapy

Learn tons of great information from my On-Line Essential Oil Course series. You can study here at our school in Alaska from anywhere in the world!

Friday, August 19, 2011

How To Do an Energetic Reading for Oriental Bodywork

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This is the type of bodywork I teach in the Oriental medicine portion of our massage program. First we turn symptoms into an energetic picture. Then we decide how to balance the energy in the form of acupoints, meridians and Qi by using Qigong, massage, acupressure, and various tonifying or sedating techniques. We modify all of this into an incredible 1-hour healing massage – specially tailored to our individual client.

It is my goal to make sure that the clients I work with – and those that my students work with - feel incredibly nurtured, cared for, and supported by this type of bodywork. My students are wonderful souls that grow and spread this beautiful art – they learn so much and never cease to inspire me!

Example 1: Client presents with a headache, wants massage which usually helps it go away.

This is an example of my thought process:
Q: Where is the headache?
A: (points to left side of head, occipital area)
My note: Gall Bladder-20 (Feng Chi) is blocked.

Q: Does the pain radiate down your back or up into the head?
A: Up into the side of my head.
My note: Gall Bladder meridian is too full on that side. Excess Liver Qi rises up and affects the left side more strongly. I need to clear the Gall Bladder Meridian and open the Liver Shu Points on the back.

Q: How often do you get headaches like this?
A: Almost once a week. It’s been this way for probably 5 years – just work related stress, you know.
My note: Chronic Liver Qi stagnation from a frustrating job. I expect the Earth meridians (Stomach and Spleen) to be deficient, probably damp. Need to tonify Earth in the lower legs – will use the combination of Spleen-6 (San Yin Jiao) and Stomach 36 (Zu San Li).

This is enough information for me to start the massage. I’ll know more when I actually put my hands on the person and can feel what is going on.

Additional notes:
Lots of stagnation (knots) in the upper traps and levator scapulae – most noticeable energy blockage at Governing Vessel-14 (Da Zhui). This means to me that there is an obstruction of Yang energy. Sometimes in a female, this can mean that at some earlier point in life a man did something traumatic (physically, emotionally, or spiritually) to her. Forgiveness in some form is necessary – possibly forgiveness of the self first, and forgiveness of the spirit-being of the offender. Sometimes in a male, this can mean that there is a frustration and unfulfillment in the Yang energy – for example, feeling as if desired bold adventure that makes you feel alive is gone forever due to present circumstances. Some kind of outlet for bold yang is necessary – a martial arts class would be great. Of course, it could also be something totally different and very unique to the individual. (It is not my place to resolve the issues of forgiveness or unfulfillment that I have noted – I only note them as a reference point. It would be my intention to release the blocked energy and allow a natural flow of events to unfold from that – giving the client complete control over the experience and their own resolution or denial of the energy.)

As I am massaging the arms I feel an energetic tingling in my Lung and Large Intestine meridian. This is telling me that I need to address the Metal energy in the client. I add a Tui Na pain path using the acupoints: Large Intestine 11, 10, 9, and 4.

In the legs, as I suspected, the Spleen meridian feels deficient and empty. I hold Spleen-6 and Stomach-36 together while emitting Qi until I can feel an energetic pulse take form.

At the end of the massage, after opening the Liver Shu points and dispersing the accumulation at Da Zhui the headache is fully released, client leaves very happy.

Example 2: Client presents with anxiety attacks, receives regular massage because it helps.

In this case I will elaborate on the 2 main circumstances I noted and what they meant to me. Note that this is highly specific and individual circumstances may vary. This case study is for example only.

First, I always place my hands on a person’s abdomen to feel where in their body their breath goes – or doesn’t go. This is extremely valuable information and can influence an amazing number of health symptoms.

When I placed my hands on the client’s abdomen, their breathing dramatically changed. It went from being full and deep – very relaxed and almost asleep – to silent – superficial – completely still. This is a very alert and protective breath – fear related – has the feel of being intensely worried on a deep level. Hmmmm………Very interesting. When I release my hands and begin massaging their legs, their breath goes back to full and deep. The client seems completely unaware of what just happened.

On their back, the Spleen Shu Acupoints were stagnated to the size of golf balls. This is a huge blockage of Earth energy – energy of the Center.

When the Center is blocked, the kidneys and heart cannot communicate. On their own, the kidneys resonate with fear. When they communicate (are energetically connected) with the heart, everything is OK – the warmth and strength of the heart keeps the fear balanced. On the other side, the heart needs a strong anchor (kidneys) or it is so yang it floats away and you see things like heart palpitations and disturbed racing thought patterns. You get doom in the kidneys mixed with an out-of-control heart = anxiety.

The blockage of Earth is cutting off the communication between the heart and the kidneys. Whatever this is needs to be addressed first – then we’ll see if the line of communication realigns on its own or if it needs to be repaired. Both are do-able.

So what is it? Specifically I don’t know yet – but it will show itself when it’s ready to be resolved. On a more generic level I know that Earth has to do with how we feel about ourselves, our home, the people we live with, the geographical area where we live, our work, our relationships (on all levels), our relationship with the Earth – and especially the nutrition that Earth provides in the form of food, and even our relationship to the universe and our sense of purpose.

Further bodywork will involve a very nurturing touch, working to gently disperse the Earth stagnation, and ensuring that the heart and kidneys are communicating again. The details of how to do this are part of the “art” of healing bodywork and will vary from therapist to therapist. We might all use the paint of Oriental medicine, but we all paint with a slightly different style, and we can all create our own beautiful painting!

Cynthia McMullen, LMT, is a Master Massage Therapist at The Oriental Healing Arts Center, and is the Oriental Bodywork course instructor for our 800 Hour Massage Therapy Program.  She has been doing this type of energetic bodywork since 1999.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Statement on Accreditation

Hello Prospective Massage Therapy Student!

We hope that you are pursuing your interest in researching local educational opportunities in the Massage Therapy field. We are posting this to clarify some information about our school that we feel is very important in order for you to make the best decision.

It has come to our attention that another local massage school has been spreading incorrect and confusing information, and we’re here to set the record straight. It is important to us that you choose the school that is the best match for your educational goals and your financial needs. We appreciate it when someone comes in having done their research, and we hope you have taken the time to visit the various schools available.

About Us:
The Oriental Healing Arts School is authorized by The Alaska Commission on Postsecondary Education. This means that the State of Alaska puts our school through a rigorous and mandatory evaluation on a regular and on-going basis to ensure that we provide valid and effective vocational education.

We meet and exceed State standards on a regular basis, and have a good working relationship with the Postsecondary Education staff due to our professionalism and high standards.

Because the State has authorized our school, students are eligible to apply for state student loans. Many Native corporations also provide tuition assistance to our students, and we offer in-house financing options.

Our graduates are welcomed at City Hall when they apply for a license. No graduate of our school has ever been denied a license. As an added bonus, 91% of our graduates are currently working in the Massage Therapy field.

What exactly is accreditation and why does it matter?

Unlike Postsecondary Education Authorization, which we have, accreditation is not usually mandatory – it is voluntary. One of the main reasons that a school will choose to become accredited is that it allows students the ability to receive federal funding for tuition. This can be lucrative income to a school. It is also lucrative income to the accrediting agency who is paid by the school for their stamp of approval.

So yes, accredited schools are held to rigorous high standards, however the State of Alaska Commission on Postsecondary Education also holds schools to rigorous high standards so that students are ensured a viable vocation.

The accrediting agencies spend a lot of money advertising the terms “accreditation” and “is your school accredited”. There is a degree of media hype to this, so do your homework on what this actually means to you before you blindly follow a term with a large advertising budget behind it.

The Oriental Healing Arts School of Massage Therapy is currently working with an Oriental Medicine and Acupuncture accreditation agency towards the goal of future accreditation. We are doing this because it is required for our acupuncture program, and we will do everything necessary to ensure the success of our graduates.

Massage Therapy Program Comparison:
Career Academy (Alaska Career College) offers a program that is 2 months shorter than ours and costs a little more, however you may qualify for federal funding on some or all of the tuition. Their program meets licensing requirements for basic therapeutic massage. Career Academy (Alaska Career College) also offers a large variety of vocations to choose from, and this is the main focus of their school – to provide you education that leads to a job in that field.

The Oriental Healing Arts School of Massage Therapy offers a 10-month program that costs a little less than Career Academy, and students may qualify for a state student loan or Native grant for some or all of the tuition. Our program exceeds state licensing requirements. The biggest difference is that we offer this education because we sincerely believe in Oriental medicine and natural methods of healing, and we want to move this specific information forward into our culture at large. Our instructors are passionate about this work and are also full-time professionals in the field.  We put our heart into our school and care deeply about the success of our students.

Our school also offers an abundance of related continuing education courses and programs so that a person can experience self-cultivation and growth on a very serious level not often seen in our Western culture. We treat our students like healers, and the courses that surround us show this – courses like:

Oriental Medicine Non-Needle Techniques: Auricular Therapy, Moxibustion,  Cupping, Gua Sha, Tuning Forks, Essential Oils, and Traditional Japanese Hot Stone Therapy

Medical QiGong Energy Healing

Tai Chi & QiGong for Personal Use or Certified Instructor

Tui Na Acupressure Massage

Thai Yoga Massage

Taoist Herbology

Taoist Five Element Nutrition

One thing we hear over and over again from professional massage therapists is “I WISH I had gone to your school!”

We are dedicated to the art of healing, walk our talk, and are here for the students meant to find us – those on a special path that needs to cross ours for reasons above and beyond all of us.

Bottom Line:

If you are satisfied being a basic massage therapist, are not interested in Oriental medicine, just want a job, or you need federal funds to pay for tuition, another school is your best choice. There are local options to receive a viable education and get licensed.

If you are passionate about healing, Oriental medicine, the powerful aspects of bodywork that go beyond “just massage”, and you must do this in your life, then The Oriental Healing Arts School of Massage Therapy is your best choice. You will receive a life-changing experience that is more deep and meaningful than you can imagine, it will be exactly what you were looking for - and you can get licensed.

The Oriental Healing Arts School of Massage Therapy

Friday, August 12, 2011

Is Herbal Medicine Influenced By Aliens?

What’s up with talking to plants? Does your plant ever talk to you? Do you answer it back? An amazing number of people are convinced that this is possible and happens all the time. I’m one of them. Almost all great herbalists and 100% of shaman know (i.e. have an internal understanding, belief, undeniable experience) that we communicate with plants.

Wow – interspecies mind vibes, kind of like Spock and the Vulcan Grip mind-meld. You connect with the other being and KNOW truth. Imagine the implications of this. It’s also the way numerous “abductees” experience communication with little grays and such.

I read a fascinating book, “Primary Perception – Biocommunication with Plants, Living Foods, and Human Cells” by Cleve Backster 2003. The author is associated with the invention of the Lie Detector Test and Men Who Stare at Goats (the real thing, not the movie). How cool is that? This guy hooked up a polygraph to plants and did all kinds of thought experiments to show that plants react to what we think! AND he used his research in the military. (Any comments from conspiracy theorists out there?)

Then you have the South American hallucinogenic herb Ayahuasca. This plant is ingested by Shamans to communicate with the Spirits, and also by patients of the shaman (shamen? What is the plural of shaman?) in order to have a healing vision. It’s now popular to travel to South America to go on an Ayahuasca journey. A common vision people report is seeing reptile-type humanoid beings that have something to do with the beginning of the world. (See “Tales of a Shaman’s Apprentice” by Mark J. Plotkin, Ph.D. 1993) Hmmmm…….

On a more conservative level, aromatherapy expert and scientist, Kurt Schnaubelt Ph.D., notes that when plants are introduced into our human body there seems to be a mechanism of communication that even shows intelligence on the part of the plant, as if it knows what needs to happen to help us. He goes on to explore the chemical makeup of essential oils and finds that at times there are compounds of “unknown origin” – we don’t know what they are. (See “Medical Aromatherapy, Healing With Essential Oils” by Kurt Schnaubelt 1999)

So we have plants communicating in our minds, being hooked up to electrodes and studied, associated with the military’s experimentation with LSD, lizard beings that may have started the world and humans, and unknown compounds turning up. I have to ask – is there alien influence going on here? I don’t know the answer to that, but I think its fun to consider the possibility.

Here’s what I do know. One of the best ways to learn about essential oils is to get to know the plant and the oil by talking to it and most importantly, LISTENING with your heart, to what it will tell you when you sincerely ask it. Another of my favorite authors and herbalists, Stephen Harrod Buhner, says “Anything will tell you its secret if you love it enough”.

Plants love to help us – it is their destiny to do this, and they have done a beautiful job of it for several million years now.

About a year ago I had a powerful recurring dream every night for a week. Basically, it was that there is a plant revolution going on now – it’s time – and they will speak loudly to those that can hear them. When I look at the state of our health care system, the greed that has placed “medicine” above human lives, and the mega bacteria we’ve created through our own mishandling of antibiotics, I know that there is an incredible force of nature that has our survival in mind and it’s reaching out. I’m listening. Are you?

Have an interesting plant communication story?  Comment and share it with us!

Learn tons of great information from my On-Line Essential Oils Course series, including exact methods of Plant Spirit Communication.

Herbal Recovery After Child Birth

A lot of women could use some herbal help recovering their strength after child birth.  The actual birth is the easy part.  After that is when you really go to work! 

Here's an e-mail I got from a new mom who was tired, overworked, and so busy she barely had time to cook for herself.  I did an Auricular Therapy (Ear Reflexology) treatment on her to help balance out her Earth energy and stimulate her appetite and Wei Qi.

"I feel so much better after the ear treatment. Eating feels normal and I'm cooking better.  Was wondering if you had some good crock pot recipes with or without herbs that could help build me up.  I'm looking for inspiration."

I LOVE cooking with herbs!!  Here's a great recipe I'll share.  It uses one of my favorite Chinese Herbs, Huang Jing (Rhizoma polygonati - Siberian solomon's seal).  This herb is also safe to ingest while breast feeding. 

NOTE OF CAUTION:  # 1 Taoist Principle is  EVERYTHING IN MODERATION.  Take it easy and eat a little bit at a time.  More is NOT better.

Here's my e-mailed response:

Try making a stew with the herb Huang Jing (Materia Medica chapter 12 - tonfies Qi, nourishes yin, strengthens the spleen & kidneys, moistens the lungs) and tastes great!

Sample Recipe: (all organic, of course)

2 potatoes, unpeeled, chopped
3 carrots, unpeeled, chopped
3 celery stalks, chopped
1 small piece of red meat, cut into small pieces (optional)
3 cups chicken or vegetable broth + additional water if needed
1 cup tomato sauce or 1 can diced tomatoes
9 grams Huang Jing
1 spoon quality sea salt
Other spices to taste but keep it mild

Put it all in a crock pot with the Huang Jing on top, in the liquid. Cook 4-6 hours. Remove the Huang Jing - it will now be softened so you can cut it into small pieces and re-add it to the stew. Add a little corn or tapioca starch to thicken the juice a little. (In a glass, mix 1 heaping spoon corn or tapioca starch with about 1/2 cup water. Stir well, then add to the crock pot and stir. The heat from the liquid broth will thicken with the starch so it's more like a light gravy.) Stir it all up and eat 1 serving each day until it's gone. Let yourself feel the strength that Huang Jing offers, and listen to what it teaches you.

Where to buy Huang Jing:  Stop by The Oriental Healing Arts Center if you're in Anchorage, or ask you local acupuncturist.  If there is a Chinatown near you it should be easily available.  I'm not sure about health food stores, but you could try.  This recipe uses the whole dried herb.  Powder or tincture forms may be available as a last resort.
We teach these classes at our school
Ancient Healing Secrets - 4 Week Intensive Introduction to Oriental Medicine
Taoist Five Element Nutrition
Taoist Herbology

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Beets for Breakfast

Ahhh, a morning alone. If you’re a mom, you will appreciate the quiet luxury of this rare moment. Peering into the refrigerator for something that I like – rather than something we’ll all like – this morning is just for me. I see beautiful baby golden beets with lush green leaves, and thick whole wheat toast.

I pop on one of my favorite CD’s of all times – Eros by Chris Spheeris. Romantic Spanish/Mediterranean guitar to cook by. This day is starting out perfect!

1. Chop the beet green tops. Notice the bright green color and imagine how much my blood is going to love them.

2. Peel the beets and chop into small pieces. The topaz golden hue is like warm sunshine mixed with sunflowers and rich honey.

3. Warm the pan, then add some organic Olive Oil from this little farm in California plus a smidgen of butter because beets cooked in butter taste SOOOO GOOOOD.

4. When the oil is hot, add the beet tops and chopped beets. Stir it around and pop that thick whole grain bread into the toaster oven where it belongs.

5. After about 3-4 minutes, add a dash of red wine vinegar to the beets, sprinkling it on like spring rain. Stir everything around and turn off the heat.

6. When the crunchy toast is ready, put it on a plate, add the scrumptious beets and a dash of pepper, dance over to the table (you have to dance to Chris’s deeply emotional guitar music), and savor every bite.

Cynthia McMullen is the instructor of the Taoist Five Element Nutrition Class.  She loves to passionately enjoy her organic food!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Essential Oil Certification Course - Need Your Input!

As many of you know I have been working hard on putting together an Essential Oil Certification Course for our school. In the initial planning stage, I am asking for your feedback – input – ideas, from a student point of view, as to what is really important for you to get out of a course like this. I would also love your ideas for naming the course!

My main goal is to provide solid (and fun!) information in a well-organized manner, and make sure that students don't just read a book - they have to really use the oils and play with the information.  I want someone to be knowledgeable, confident, and effective when they complete the course.  This is what I want, but I want to know what YOU want also.

Here’s my general draft outline and course setup:

Length of course: 1 year (or 12 parts that must be completed within a 24-month period max)

Textbooks/required reading: To be determined, but will definantly include information by Kathryn Sharp and Kurt Schnaubelt

Class meets one day each month for 3-4 hours. Each class will be videotaped so that distance learning is an option.

In class, we will discuss the topic for that month, be given a reading assignment for the next month, and go over hands-on techniques.

For each month/topic, students will be responsible for:

  • completing the reading assignment
  • providing a written outline to demonstrate satisfactory understanding of the material
  • purchasing assigned essential oils (approximately 4 per month) – there is no specific brand required. Students may use essential oils of their choice provided that they are of adequate quality.
  • completing and documenting case study assignments using the essential oils
 12 Monthly Topics, with applications to adults and children:

1. Introduction, history, methods of extraction, general safety guidelines, connecting with the spirit of the plant

2. How to research each essential oil, variations of plant species, importance of where an oil is grown, basic chemistry – what it means and how to apply this information to acquire desired results

3. Topical methods of application, carrier oils

4. Diffusion methods

5. Internal/oral methods

6. Suppositories, dental care, using essential oils with pets

7. Making blends

8. Flower essences (I really want to include a section on this because so many people have asked for it.)

9. Hydrosols

10. Making beauty products

11. Boosting the immune system

12. Treating colds and flu

I am also looking at doing a future Advanced Certification specifically in Chinese Medical Aromatherapy, which will be much shorter in length, and will have the minimum pre-requisites of the following courses currently taught at our school. Basically, someone will need to have an understanding of Oriental medicine and herbs in order to understand and use the information in the Advanced Course:

  • Essential Oil Certification (above)
  • Theory of Oriental Medicine
  • Meridians & Points
  • Taoist Herbology
  • Preferably, but not required: Acupressure & Meridian Massage Lab and/or Medical QiGong Practitioner

    UPDATE: The super popular Essential Oil Certification Class is now available On-Line. The Chinese Medical Aromatherapy classes are being taught live at Alaska Institute of Oriental Medicine and will be available on-line in the future.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Energetics of Smiling Heart QiGong

Turn To Accept the Moon Qi
Preparation: The focus of this Qigong form is to bring your heart into a state of happiness and gratitude. This promotes an experience of heart congruency which is an essential part of mind-body-spirit growth and harmonization.

1. Rippling Pond
Feel your heart center energy expand outwards. Lightly ripple your fingertips through the energy to create pond-like ripples, spreading your heart qi around.

2. Gathering Sunlight
Open your arms and imagine drawing the warmth of the sun directly into your heart, warming you and also making your heart feel warm to others.

3. Bending the Rainbow
Feel a ball of energy between your raised hands. As you stretch it, imagine that each finger has a rainbow color of energy. Try to maintain the feeling of qi connection between your hands. This exercise builds and refines sensitivity to feeling qi.

4. Bathe in Earth Energy
Gather yellow energy from the Earth. Draw it up through yourself, then surround yourself with it while circling back down. This exercise strengthens the primal connection between you and the Earth mother who provides everything you need to be nurtured and cared for.

5. Share Smiling Heart
As the front hand holds your heart qi, your back hand moves and pushes it, sending your heart qi out of your fingers like rays of the sun, to share with everyone.

6. Rowing on the Lake
Embody the feeling of being on vacation, the sun and sky are perfect, you are lazily rowing a boat on the lake, you haven’t a care in the world. Feeling this sense of ultimate relaxation at the same time you loosen your shoulder girdle lets your body release the most common area of tension (upper shoulders and neck) to let Yang qi from above flow into your body with ease.

7. Toss the Ball
You feel so happy and so good, if there is anything in your being (dan tian) that is negative or toxic, toss it to the wind – you don’t need it. It often helps to actually say in your mind what you are releasing, such as “I toss away pain. I toss away frustration. I toss away disease, etc.”

8. Push Palm
The push forward emphasizes stretching the heart meridian, and focuses on the Heart-7 (Shen Men, Spirit Gate) acupoint in the wrist area. The push/pull of the opposite arms stretches open the heart center.

9. Turn to Accept the Moon Qi
Imagine drawing the light of the moon into your raised hands, then drawing it down and placing it in your dan tian. This move is strongly Yin in nature, which helps to balance the overall Yang focus of the QiGong form.

10. Wave Hands Like Clouds
The legs are strong, solid, yin. The hands are light, airy, yang. This is a classic movement for harmonizing the Yin/Yang of the whole body.

11. Reaching Into Yin & Yang
12. Push the Ocean Wave
13. Fly Like a Dove
The first 2 of these movements together stimulate the Wood Element (Liver qi) through the free and easy flow, the physical stimulation of the liver meridian in the big toe and legs, and the focus of bringing the ocean wave hands up to the eyes. Wood feeds Fire, so the last movement – Fly Like a Dove – emphasizes very softly expanding and contracting the energy of the heart center.

14. Turtle Pokes Out Its Head
The extended hand is stretching the Small Intestine meridian, and you should feel it from your shoulder blade area to your hand. The legs are being strengthened in the pumping movement. Strong legs are very important to strong qi flow throughout the entire body.

15. Fly Like Wild Geese
Like wild geese, honor the Way of Nature, where everything happens exactly when it is supposed to. This is freedom.

16. Painting the World
Circling 3 times to the left honors the Yin energy of the 3 dan tians. Circling 3 times to the right honors the Yang energy of the 3 dan tians. The extended open hands stretch and tonify the Perciardium meridian.

17. Bouncing the Ball
The Green Dragon of the wood element is on the left side. The White Tiger of the metal element is on the right side. Both sides should be strong and stable to show balance between these 2 powerful energies.

18. Press Palms to Settle the Breath
Promotes connection and harmonization within the central meridian (Taiji Pole) which includes the lower dan tian, the heart center, and the 3rd eye. Settles the breath back to the dan tian, the foundation. Provides a sense of calming closure.

Always end your QiGong with several moments of silence and experience how you feel. Shaking all over or tapping your meridians at the end is appropriate to release any stagnant qi and obtain optimal flow.

See the video of Smiling Heart QiGong movements here:

If you are interested in QiGong, you may also like our DVD of Taoist Temple Seated QiGong, available at: or watch it on YouTube