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Why Pay Attention to Your Gut Health

by Michael Hurley L.Ac.

Do you suffer from fatigue, brain fog, insomnia, or weight gain?

Are your joints inflamed and sore all the time?

Do you suffer from an auto-immune disease or any other chronic illness?

It may be time to pay attention to your gut health.  As an acupuncturist and practitioner of natural medicine, I feel that my most important goal is to teach people of how important their diet and more specifically, their gut health, is in maintaining their overall health.

So what do I mean by gut health?  What I am referring to is the microbiome that lives in all of us.  This is the ecosystem of micro bacteria that lives in our digestive system, on our skin, etc.  There are good bacteria and bad bacteria, to put things simply. When the balance sways toward the bad bacteria, inflammation-related symptoms and disorders are more likely to occur.  When the balance sways toward the good bacteria, inflammation is diminished and prevented.

Some Basic Facts.  The average human carries an ecosystem made up of over 5 pounds of beneficial bacteria at all times.  There are over 500 species of these bacteria making up the 100 trillion residents that call your body home.  But remember, these aren’t just squatters. These are really good citizens when they are in balance. When they are not, just like in our outside society, things go awry.

A small sampling of disorders that can be caused by imbalanced gut health include ADD, autism, insomnia, weight gain, joint pain, multiple sclerosis, depression, anxiety, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, irritable bowel syndrome, dementia and Alzheimer’s, foggy headedness, UTIs and bladder inflammation, leaky gut syndrome, diarrhea and constipation, acid reflux, and has even been linked to various, if not all forms, of cancer.  These and many other disorders come about from excess inflammation in the body. In most cases, they can be prevented, cured, or the risks reduced by balancing the delicate ecosystem in your digestion. 

How do you balance your microbiome?  

  • Reduce sugar intake as much as possible.  Sugar feeds the unhealthy bacteria which then multiply faster than the good bacteria.  
  • Stop taking antibiotics and ingesting harmful chemicals, including from your food in the case of factory farmed meats and non-organic vegetables.  These kill all bacteria, good and bad. Additionally, more and more cases are showing that the bad bacteria are becoming immune to antibiotics due to their overuse in food production and in prescriptions.  
  • Eat more fresh vegetables and add more insoluble fiber to your diet.  This will feed the good bacteria which can then multiply faster than the bad bacteria.  
  • Consume more prebiotic foods like sauerkraut and kimchi.  Prebiotics are foods that feed the good bacteria and promote the growth of the colonies.
  • Add probiotics by consuming probiotic-rich foods such as yogurt and kefir.  The best way to get nutrients is through your food.  Consuming probiotics from food sources will also save money.  
  • Take probiotic supplements from your natural food store to add to the good bacteria.  Try to get brands that are hypoallergenic and vegan. It is best to spend more for a good product in this case.  Cheap probiotic supplements are a waste of money and do not provide benefit. Supplements should only be taken as a short term convenience when your lifestyle is busy.  If your life is too busy to eat right, fix it because no matter what you are doing, it is not more important than your health.
  • Meditation and stress reduction also balance the microbiome in your gut.  

So, where does acupuncture fit into all of this?  Acupuncture treats you as a whole.  This means that it balances your body, mind, and spirit.  As I have explained above, several things can throw off the balance of your gut bacteria.  These can be stress, food choices, medications, etc.  

  • Acupuncture can help you manage stress, providing a great environment for your microbiome.  
  • Acupuncture can balance the Qi in your digestive system so that the bacteria in your digestive system can get all the nutrients they need.  
  • Acupuncture can also mitigate pain and inflammation, thereby reducing the need for harmful pharmaceuticals which kill off beneficial bacteria.

Thank you for your time and don’t forget to book your next acupuncture appointment now.

A Recipe for Lasting Change

by Satya (Tricia) Hurley, M.Ed.
Co-Founder, Cup of Life Healing Center

Do you struggle to make and hold onto lasting change?  Do life’s circumstances seem to hold you back?  

A little history:  My parents separated when I was 4 years old.  My brother and I grew up splitting our time between two households. While our parents loved us and always did the best they could with the tools they had at the time, life was tricky.

As a teenager, I made a pact with myself—my adult life and my family’s life would NOT look anything like the one I grew up in.  I did not know what that meant at the time, nor did I have a clear picture what that entailed. However, to this day, I can easily recall an ultra-clear knowing from the depths of my Soul, a contract to transform my world.

It took many, many years before the spiritual part of that pact began to unfold and the journey still continues.  When I look back on my life and on other’s journeys, a clear pattern emerges. There are 6 KEY ingredients for creating lasting change. We’ll look at each in more detail.

6 KEY INGREDIENTS TO LASTING CHANGE:

  1. Take an Active Role
  2. Introspection
  3. Feel What You’re Feeling
  4. Letting Go
  5. Stick-To-Itiveness
  6. Trust

TAKE AN ACTIVE ROLE:

This is the first and most important step.  I’ll use myself as an example to illustrate the point.  For many years, my path of personal change was a passive one.  Until well into my 30’s I looked for the answers outside of myself placing lots of blame on my parents and other circumstances outside of my control for what was “wrong” with me and the world.  I spent many years trying to force everything to look different.

I avoided.  I numbed.  I worked 60-90 hours a week so I didn’t have time to feel.  I moved 3,000 miles from home.  I climbed the corporate ladder and had “a big important job”.  On the outside, things had changed.  My life certainly didn’t look anything like that of my childhood—I had a wonderful husband, a fantastic salary, and a townhouse in Southern California less than a mile from the beach.

Yet, the inside hadn’t changed.  On the inside, I was miserable. The shroud over my core Self was thick.  Then, something happened—I got fed up.  By some act of Grace, I started to see that there had to be a better way to be.  I quit my job. I did yoga and meditated a lot.  I took action.  For the first time ever, I began to take responsibility for changing the way I felt and how I viewed and responded to the world.  And, that was just the beginning.  The true purpose of my teenage pact began to reveal itself.  I am thankful to say that the wonderful husband still remains in my world, but the rest has been nothing short of a miraculous journey.

INTROSPECTION:

Introspection is a courageous act.  It is the willingness to look INSIDE and an essential part of taking an active role.  In introspection, you look deeply within yourself and are honest with what’s really there.  For many, this is a terrifying proposition. The inner voices might sound something like,  “What will I find?”  “What if all I find out is that a horrible, worthless person is in there?”  “If I were truly honest with myself, I’d have to start taking responsibility and I don’t know if I’m ready to do that.”   “If I stop being angry at ‘them’, ‘they’ would win.”  Introspection is a crucial step to STOP shifting the blame on everyone and everything else.

This was a HUGE shift for me.  Instead of automatically getting mad at what was on the outside, I began to first ask things like, “What is this situation pushing on?”, “Why is this here for me?”, or “Even though this is uncomfortable, what spiritual lesson can I learn here?”  While there were and still are outer circumstances to navigate, the act of feeling and taking my power back, playing that active role in my process has made all the difference.

FEEL WHAT YOU’RE FEELING:

If I am being truly honest, this was the hardest part for me and it took the longest to embrace.  I can’t even begin to tell you how many people I’ve met over the years that struggle with this too.  We’ve fooled ourselves into thinking that if we somehow stop, ignore, or pretend our feelings not there that they’ll magically go disappear. Yet, often we justify continuing in this way out of fear—“If I let myself feel it, I might end up out of control and ruin my life or others’ lives.

Yet, there is nothing that could be further from the truth.  It takes a TREMENDOUS amount of energy to “keep everything in check.”  Every time we block our feelings, we block our creative energies and we cover over our True Self.  To this I ask—what is it costing you to hold onto that old fear, that old story? What is it costing you every time you deny your feelings and yourself?  It’s probably costing more than you’re willing to admit.

Give yourself permission to feel your feelings—all of them.  Let them all wash through your awareness. The good, the bad, and the ugly feelings are all fair game. Because, when you stop denying yourself, and you stop pushing things down, things will begin to shift. Energy will begin to flow.

LETTING GO:

When I finally gave myself permission to feel and process what I was feeling, old issues that previously seemed impossible to release, no matter how much other spiritual work I did, began to resolve.  The newfound inner peace and freedom have been nothing short of life-altering in a positive way.

Be willing to really look inside. Take a good look at your core beliefs, the things you tell yourself, your habits, your patterns, your tendencies, your gut reactions.  Be willing to let go of the parts of these things that do not serve you and call into your being all the tools you need to create new habits, to form new beliefs, to love and believe in yourself to make the effort worth it.

STICK-TO-ITIVENESS:

We’ve become accustomed to an “instant-fix” for everything.  Self-healing and self-reclamation in the most spiritual sense are far from an easy path. It takes an active, continuous, and concerted effort to let go of all of the things that hold you back, all of the excuses, all of the blame, shame, guilt and anger that keeps responsibility for change away.

Be willing to stay the course, even when it seems impossible. Be willing to trust that all the resources you need to align yourself with the Divine purpose for your life are already in place and they will show up on time.  Be patient with apparent setbacks. They might not be setbacks at all.  Instead, they just might be the very fuel you need to fulfill your purpose and path.

TRUST:

Above all, TRUST. Trust that within the core of your being is everything you need to heal and grow. There is no one being, nor anything that you need outside of yourself that you don’t already have. You are already your own perfect Divine being. You just don’t realize it at this moment because the shroud over your core has you caught in a false illusion that says otherwise.

IN SUMMARY:

  • Take an active role.
  • Look inside and be honest with yourself.
  • Give yourself permission to feel and heal.
  • Let go.
  • Make a continuous concerted effort.
  • Trust. Trust. Trust.

When I stay focused and dedicated to this, all that I need for my continued healing and continued path of dedication to being in complete and total alignment with my Souls’ purpose unfolds. All the people, places, and circumstances I need fall easily into place in my life and I continue to grow and heal. How might you incorporate these ingredients into your world?

Make a Choice in How You Start Your Day

by Michael Hurley L.Ac.

Do you struggle with staying on track with your day and keeping motivated? Do you sometimes get stuck or simply feel lazy all day long?  It’s true we have many stressors in our lives today between work and family, holidays, relationships, political climate, social media, television, etc.  It’s also true that concerning ourselves with these issues is unhealthy if done too intensely.  Deep down inside, we all know this.  However, the day tends to get away from us as these individual items add up.  Before we know it, we are overwhelmed and are not really sure how it happened.

So, in this month’s article, we’ll explore one of my most relied upon practices to move out of a funk and back into the flow of life. The most effective way I know is to begin your day is with a daily routine or practice.  I define a daily practice as an activity or group of activities that can help you set the tone for your day.  These are things you do for yourself to establish your physical and emotional well-being.  This is important to do before anyone else in the world has any influence over youYou choose your mindset independent of distractions or worries going on around you.

Many who read this will immediately say, “But, I don’t have time to add anything more to my day!”  Here’s the thing about time—when you really want to do something, the time always shows up.  Every day, Americans find lots of time to check emails, Facebook, and Twitter to find out what bad things are happening in the world.  We find time to fantasize about arguing with the person who cut us off in the parking lot or the center of town.  We find time to feel sorry for ourselves about our health, jobs, or relationships.  This isn’t five or ten minutes out of the day that I am talking about.

The average American spends hours per day wasting their thoughts and energy on these activities without even being aware of it.  This lack of awareness is a trap of the mind.  If we stay numb to our habits, then we don’t have to change. The mind is perfectly happy to keep you occupied all day long and stagnant in your ways.  Our mind makes us believe that other people’s opinions are more important than how we feel about ourselves or the beautiful lives that we actually live.

By doing a set of activities when you wake up, you set yourself up with a win for the day instead of getting caught up in negativity.  You can literally begin to retrain your brain and your thinking with this one simple practice. Now, I am not talking about spending hours meditating, doing CrossFit, or anything like that.  Those are great activities but the commitment to them can be stressful and is usually why we think we don’t have any time.  The mind is great at setting us up for self-sabotage, so instead, I am advocating to KEEP IT SIMPLE and BE CONSISTENT.

My favorite daily practice looks something like this:

  1. When your alarm first goes off in the morning, PRESS SNOOZE.
  2. Spend the next several minutes reviewing how you feel in that moment.
  3. Acknowledge 2 or 3 things that you are grateful for in that moment.
  4. Proceed with your day in a more positive and uplifted mood!

For example, after hitting the snooze button, let’s say you notice that your neck is aching.  You can start by simply being grateful for the fact that you actually woke up another day.  You can be grateful that you have feeling in your neck.  No matter what it is, make a conscious effort to notice something about your surroundings and be grateful for it.  Say it to yourself.  “I am grateful for this nice warm blanket.  I am grateful for my nice soft pillow.  I am grateful for …”

If you find yourself thinking you have nothing to be grateful for, and some people do at first, fake it.  Just say it anyway.  You may be discouraged with some life challenge, but instead of letting the mind derail the moment, “fake it till you make it.”  In the process, you will be teaching your mind to naturally seek out the good even if you do not fully believe it as you say it.

It’s even okay to be cynical at first, if that’s what it takes to get you started.  You might initially find yourself saying things like, “I am grateful for my partner who never takes out the trash or feeds the animals.”  After a couple of days of getting that out of your system, your mind will start omitting the negative part (which is simply your own ego).  Your mind will then it turn this into something like, “I am grateful for my partner.”

Genuine gratitude feels great. After a few days of doing this, your mind will start adding on by saying something like, “I am grateful for my partner who earns money for us to pay the rent or mortgage.”  Or, “I am grateful for my partner who is an incredible caretaker for my children.”  With consistent practice, your thoughts and the depth of your gratitude will deepen and grow.  In fact, as you practice, you may find that your gratitude can go on forever which is another great reason for hitting snooze as opposed to turning the alarm off.

I cannot emphasize enough, the key is consistency.  That is why I say to start smallSet yourself up with small wins every day.  Once you have those, you will want to do more, but do more ONLY if you really feel you want to.  If you do something because you feel you need to, your motivation will fizzle and cause more stress.

After you are successful at adding a gratefulness practice, try meditating by just concentrating on your breath.  Again, start with 5 minutes and add-on because you want to.  After that, maybe add some movement.  This can be a short walk outside, a short asana (yoga) practice, or a short calisthenics workout.  For those of you that head out for the gym in the morning or feel that you already have a great physical morning routine, just try adding the gratefulness practice when you first wake up.  You will be amazed at how your morning workouts will be transformed.

So, if I am asking you to do something, what am I doing, right?  Below is a typical everyday practice for me.  Take note, I had to work up to this. If this is new to you, take it in stages and add things in gradually.

  1. My alarm goes off at 5 and I hit snooze:). I could just get right out of bed but that initial gratefulness practice is really beneficial to do when you are just out of your dream state.  Also, sometimes I fall back to sleep, so hitting snooze ensures that I don’t oversleep.  I do my 5 or 10 minutes of just discovering all the things that I am grateful for right off the top of my head.
  2. From there, I start my morning coffee and while that is brewing, I do a 10 or 15-minute calisthenics workout.
  3. Then, I get my coffee ready. Before I drink any or even check my phone (It is important to add that I have not exposed myself to the outside world yet), I meditate for 15 minutes (which as of late has been more gratefulness awareness because it just feels so good).
  4. Then I am ready to start my day.

It is not necessary to do all of this to make a positive impact on your day.  I just wanted to give an example of what I am currently doing so you could see how easy this could be.  Remember, I have been building up to this slowly for quite some time now.  Truthfully, I used to complain that I did not have time to do these things.  By adding on slowly I was able to gradually increase what I do.  The more mindfully I added things, the more my commitment grew to maintain these simple yet profoundly beneficial practices for my health and wellness.

So, please give the 5-minute morning gratefulness practice a try for a couple of weeks and let me know how it goes.  Remember, keep it simple and be consistentAlso, if you ever catch me in a bad or stressed mood, ask me if I am still doing mine.  More than likely, I have gotten lazy about one or more of my daily practices and I will appreciate the reminder:).

Acupuncture for Depression

by Michael Hurley L.Ac.

Do you suffer from depression either occasionally or chronically? Depression is highly individual.  From just feeling a little down to feeling high strung with their minds racing, to finding it very difficult to function normally, depression affects people in a wide variety of ways.

Additionally, there can be many reasons why depression hits ranging from external (relationships, weather, political stress, etc.) to internal (hormonal imbalances, psycho-emotional disorders).  Chinese Medicine recognizes that there are individualized ways depression affects the overall balance on an individual.

Diagnosis and treatment are never “one size fits most.” Instead, Chinese Medicine looks at the underlying patterns that may be appearing in the person.  Is it a deficient pattern?  Is it an excess pattern?  Is it a combination of both? What meridian or organ system are the imbalances appearing in?  Depression will usually show up as a deficient or an excess pattern.

Some symptoms that your Acupuncturist may be looking for include tongue color, colors in various parts of the face, achiness or distension in various parts of the body, emotions that are more prevalent than others recently, and many more.  With this information, which the Acupuncturist will obtain from feeling the pulse and viewing the tongue, they will know how to customize the treatment to promote healing and balance.

Both the presenting symptoms and the patterns that the acupuncturist reads in the tongue and pulse inform the course of treatment. This includes which areas of the body acupuncture needles will be placed and frequency of treatment. In addition to the acupuncture treatment, your Acupuncturist may also prescribe a Chinese herbal formula to help treat the imbalance along with some nutritional changes that can be made to support your healing.

Acupuncture is a technique used by practitioners of Chinese medicine where hair-thin needles are strategically inserted just under the skin to promote the flow of Qi throughout the body.  The single most common thing that my patients tell me they experience during an acupuncture treatment is a distinct calming of the mind.  Under the regular care of a licensed acupuncturist, you can expect to increase energy, calm your moods, fight off illness more efficiently, sleep more regularly, reduce cravings(food, drugs, and alcohol), digest your food more efficiently, and gain an overall balance in your body, mind, and spirit.  Regular care is 1 to 3 acupuncture treatments per week depending on the severity of your symptoms.

In addition to following the course of treatment prescribed by your acupuncturist, there are things you can to do to help as well.  Things that you can do for yourself to lift your mood include meditation, use of uplifting essential oils (sage, bergamot, sandalwood, mandarin, lemongrass, and grapefruit), exercise (20-30 minutes a day), quit smoking,  receive Reiki, and visit your local acupuncturist.

Depression is not something to take lightly.  If you experience deep bouts of depression, do not hesitate to seek out professional psychiatric help.  I hope you find this information helpful and I hope that you try some of the tips listed earlier in this article.  If you have not done so already, be sure to call and book an appointment with an Acupuncturist so they can help you return to a balanced state.

  • This article was written by Michael Hurley L.Ac. Michael is the co-owner and acupuncturist at Cup of Life Healing Center located at 82 Washington Street Suite 2 in Keene, NH. (603) 352-3625

Hara Release – Unblock Energy From Your Core

By Michael Hurley, L.Ac., Co-Founder, Cup of Life Healing Center

Energy Gets Stuck in Your Core
Hara Release MassageAs humans living in a competitive society, we tend to have a lot of anxiety and we do not express our emotions as much as we should. In fact, we tend to push our feelings down either to avoid confrontation or just because it is not convenient or “appropriate” to show them in all situations. We are taught at a young age that we should be tough and push through pain. We should not show people that we are scared. We need to “beat” Cancer or “kick that bug.” The fact is that all of these are normal processes of life and should not be hidden.

Our emotions are what make us human and not expressing our emotions causes a breakdown in the machine that we call our body. When we do not express our emotions, we push them into our center or our abdomen where they become stagnant. We think we can control them there because they are surrounded. This is why we “get a sick pit in our stomach” or we feel “butterflies” when we need to give a presentation or performance.

The stagnation that occurs as a result of pushing down our emotions results in dis-ease. When we are in dis-ease, our immune system is compromised and no longer able to perform its function of defense. When this happens, we are more susceptible to catching seasonal illnesses, illnesses due to toxins in our environment, skin infections, and physical injuries. This stagnant energy in our abdomen can cause many musculoskeletal disorders as well.

Many of the muscles in our hips and legs are attached to our lumbar and sacral spine. Stagnant energy in the lower abdomen can affect the states that those muscles are in and cause tight muscles, nerve impingements, vascular problems in the hips and legs, and fertility disorders. Stagnant energy in the middle abdomen can cause digestive disorders because the organs of digestion cannot perform their functions properly. Stagnant energy in the upper abdomen can lead to problems with the heart and lungs. It can also cause headaches, nasal congestion, neck tension, and even toothaches. Many of the main meridians as explained in Traditional Chinese Medicine travel through the abdomen. This explains why when energy is stagnant in this area, so many areas of the body can be affected.

Hara Release Technique – An Eastern Technique for Releasing Stagnation
Now that I have talked about many of the things that can go wrong in the body due to stuck energy in the abdomen, let me tell you a little about something that you can do about it as well as some of the specific medical conditions that this modality can relieve. The technique is called Hara Release. It is a modality commonly used in Eastern cultures, and in some Western cultures, as a means to balance the body and emotions.

A partial list of benefits to Hara Release include treatments of medical conditions such as IBS or irritable bowel syndrome, sluggish hepatic and biliary function, gastritis, poor assimilation, gastroptosis, constipation, inflammatory bowel disorders, asthma, chronic bronchitis, chronic prostatitis, interstitial cystitis, mild to moderate incontinence, vulva pain, menstrual pain, infertility, retroflexed uterus, blocked fallopian tubes, neck pain, back pain, shoulder pain, pelvic pain, release of adhesions, as well as other physical health problems. Many emotional health problems can be relieved by Hara Release as well. These include but are not limited to stress and anxiety, insomnia, bipolar disorders, and depression.

What Happens in Hara Release Treatment?
I think it is always helpful to educate a client as to what they will be receiving. Hara Release is performed with the recipient in a supine (face-up) position. Ideally, the recipient will have eaten a small meal an hour or so prior to receiving their treatment and will have emptied their bladder. Doing this will reduce any discomfort.

The practitioner will then prepare the abdomen with soft, rhythmic, circular motions with his or her hands. At this time, he or she will also instruct the recipient of what to communicate during the session and will synchronize the breath. After the abdomen has been “softened”, the practitioner will begin a series of slow, deep, loving presses choreographed with the recipient’s breath until a desired depth is reached. Each press will be held for a period of time to ensure a proper release of that area. This series of presses could go on for 30 minutes to an hour depending on what each individual recipient needs.

The recipient can experience a wide range of feelings and emotions during a Hara Release session. In the physical realm, feelings like pressure, movement, warmth moving to various areas of the body, and sometimes various levels of discomfort. It is important to convey this information to the practitioner especially if there is ever a sharp pain felt. A dull and achy feeling is acceptable and most times beneficial but sharp is not.

Emotionally, the recipient can experience a variety of things. Some people feel nothing. Some feel a sense of relief even though, they are normally overwhelmed. Sometimes old memories or emotions get accessed and the recipient experiences a much needed emotional release. The important thing to remember is that all of these experiences are right and will be supported by the practitioner. I personally use Reiki and my natural compassion to support my clients through this process.

Just like any massage or medical treatment, the frequency of sessions needed to address the individual condition will depend on the severity of the disorder as well as how long the recipient has been suffering. If the issue has only been around for a few days, one session may be all that is needed. If the issue has been endured for several years or even decades, a long-term treatment plan will most likely need to be discussed.

Perfect Timing

by Michael Hurley, L.Ac., co-founder, Cup of Life Healing Center

Doing nothing is better than being busy doing nothing. -Lao TzuHave you ever had a goal in mind, yet it seemed so far off?  Have you ever been so fixated on accomplishing something that you found yourself impatient, irritable, or frustrated when someone or something seemed to get in the way of what you wanted?

I see so many people, myself included, rushing around trying to get somewhere on time or forcing something to happen on some kind of schedule.  We create a lot of undue stress.  Often, we blame the stress on others like our boss, kids, spouse, or even a circumstance.  However, if we look at the situation more deeply, we will see, we are the ones putting the stress on ourselves.  We do this by setting unrealistic expectations or timelines and by getting attached to things being exactly the way we want it, exactly when we want it. When we don’t get the instant gratification that we desire, or we think someone or something is getting in our way, we get frustrated.

Often, we’re not even aware that it is we who are creating our own stress. What I find to be true is that our frustration is simply our ego tricking us into thinking we’re in control, that we have the ability to force things to happen in our timing. Yet, ironically, this is frequently the exact thing that keeps us from seeing a clear way to attaining the thing we desire.

This leads me to the reason I shared the Lao Tzu quote at the top of this article, “Doing nothing is better than being busy doing nothing. Some may read this and think it’s advocating for laziness and doing nothing. I have a different interpretation. If either way, you’ll accomplish nothing, doing so without the busyness is a much more pleasant option. The same amount gets done, but you are not stressed out in the process and are able to enjoy it. Life is meant to be enjoyed now, not later. 

Doing nothing is better than being busy doing nothing.” Also encourages us to consider our attitude and perspective when setting out to accomplish a goal. It is good to have goals to strive toward. Yet, HOW we arrive at the goal is incredibly important. There’s a big difference between rushing to our goal, angrily bowling everyone over along the way to get to our desired outcome and navigating the journey with ease and patience for the twists, turns, and hiccups that might happen along the way. With the latter mindset, seeming obstacles may turn into valuable lessons and redirect us to something even better than we imagined. This is a difference we need to realize. And, we are the only ones who can do this for ourselves.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not perfect.  I get caught up in the drama of my own ego just like everyone else. But, I can usually bring myself out of it or at least allow someone else to remind me of what I truly believe. We need to enjoy the journey.  When we slow down long enough to truly be present, we are able to see the gifts every situation brings.

So, the next time you find yourself rushing to the goal or worried that you’re somehow missing out; I encourage you to pause, breathe, and take inventory of the moment.  What is working? Where can you let go a little and give yourself the space to go with the flow of what is happening right now? If you can give yourself the space to step back and see the big picture, you just might realize, everything is actually in perfect timing!

Spring Clutter Cleaning

by Michael Hurley, L.Ac., Co-Founder, Cup of Life Healing Center

Spring is a great time for cleaning, a time where we take the opportunity to clear out the old things that we do not need anymore and make room for freshness. In less than a couple of months, we will be opening up the windows and letting the fresh air and sun into our homes.

In the past, I’ve written about how to live in tune with the winter and the spring in accordance with Chinese Medicine. Today, I want to focus on the significance of clearing clutter from our lives. Cleaning and clutter clearing can mean a number of things to a number of people. But, ultimately it means moving energy. Spring is a time where it is imperative to move energy mentally, physically, and spiritually.

If we do not clean up and organize, we may not be able to fully appreciate the rejuvenating and energizing flow of Qi that comes with the season of spring. This refreshing and revitalizing flow of energy is our gift from the universe for enduring a long winter and for giving ourselves with time to stop and reflect.

On a physical level, people will start improving their diets and get started on fitness activities, if they did not start in January with the New Year. They will also start seeing a brighter outlook on life and personal/professional endeavors. All of this is perfect. Keep the Qi moving. That should be everyone’s mantra for spring.

Much like cleaning out the vents in our homes, we need to clean out the dirt, the junk, and the things that are not serving us in our bodies and minds. This means “cleaning” our unwholesome thought patterns and habits.  These are considered clutter too, just in a different form. Clutter, in all forms, will only slow you down and make your life more confusing and stressful.

There are many resources on the internet, in bookstores and libraries, and possibly on your own bookshelf that can help with some of this decluttering and cleaning. Find something that will help you ease into it so that it is not too stressful. A few books our family has found useful are Spark Joy by Marie Kondo and Declutter Your Mind by S.J. Scott and Barrie Davenport.

Most importantly, be kind to yourself and appreciate the things you have kept and the experiences, feelings, and memories that you have accumulated. And then, take some time to evaluate. Does this bring me joy?  Is this serving my current purpose in life? If the answer to these questions is “no”, then it is time to thank them for their service and return them to the universe. You can think of that as literal or figurative recycling.

In regards to decluttering of the mind, there is no better way than meditation to achieve this. Meditation gives us the opportunity to break free from and clear away negative thought patterns and habitual thinking. It literally helps clear the dust and cobwebs in our mind and in our thinking. Sometimes we find ways to do this on our own and sometimes group support can be a fantastic way to get started.

Fortunately, we have several group meditation resources available to us in the Keene, NH area.

Some of my readers may be tired of me continuously suggesting meditation but don’t expect it to stop anytime soon. I firmly believe that if everyone had a regular meditation practice, I and every other medical practitioner would need to close our doors because of lack of patients. It is that effective.

So, let’s make a pact to ourselves to take time each day to declutter a piece of our lives to help us continue to make this a transformative year.

Finally, for a little extra help and another point of view, you can also check out a nice article Tricia wrote several years ago about putting spring cleaning into a spiritual perspective.

Mindful Relationships

-by Tricia “Satya” Hurley, M.Ed., Co-founder and Reiki Master Teacher, Cup of Life Healing Center

Michael and I have been together for over 26 years and married for nearly 20 of those years. We are often asked, “What makes your relationship work? How do you sustain the difficulties that arise in relationships?”

We get it!  Relationships are work!  26+ years together has brought its fair share of ups and downs.  There are many personal practices and habits we have come to rely on to keep our relationship alive and strong. Hands down, mindfulness has been one of the most impactful practices in our relationship. We know mindfulness can help whether you’re single or in a relationship.

As you read on, remember, mindfulness is not a religion. Like yoga, it is a practice that can be incorporated into your life no matter what religious or spiritual practice you may already have. We have found including it strengthens all aspects of our lives.

The Four Noble Truths

At the heart of our practice are the teachings of mindfulness master, Thich Nhat Hahn. Today I’d like share with you one aspect of those teachings that have made an incredibly profound impact on us, The Four Noble Truths.

Here’s the bottom line—we all suffer and have times of difficulty. What makes it challenging is that often when we suffer, we don’t know what to do with it. So we stuff it down, ignore it, or get angry at it.  In effect, we continue to perpetuate and continue to generate our own suffering. Yet, if we learn to mindfully breathe into, feel it, and look at it, we will find that we can learn from it and our suffering and discomfort subsides. Mindfulness helps us take actions that ease our suffering. With continued mindfulness, we return to a more peaceful state of mind.

Deep Looking and Listening

Yet, many of us shy away from this kind of looking out of fear that whatever our pain is will take over. So, let’s clarify what we mean by deep looking. This is NOT the same as ruminating on the same negative thought over and over. Ruminating creates more suffering. Looking instead with eyes of self-compassion and loving-kindness, we can begin to see our habits and what is truly causing our discomfort.

It’s easy to get caught up in blaming our loved one. We tend to avoid personal responsibility for our part in the problem and gravitate toward blaming others or blaming circumstances outside of ourselves. We think, “if so and so would just…, then I would feel better.”

Yet, in every moment, there is an aspect of personal responsibility we must take. We must look at what are we doing to cause our suffering. 99.99% of the time, our anger or frustration toward another is connected to our own unmet inner needs, to something we must address inside ourselves. This takes effort. And, it can be deeply uncomfortable to do.

The more we can look for and create inherent wholeness within ourselves, the easier it becomes to be a present, loving and supportive partner. Then, when our partner is having a difficult time, instead of blaming, criticizing, or trying to fix whatever their issue is, we can simply be there for them. This creates a deep, lasting spiritual connection.

As a couple, you begin to trust that no matter what your own personal struggle, your partner will do their best to hold you compassionately. This is an ongoing process of personal and spiritual growth. It is not something one can master overnight.  Yet, with consistent effort, it makes all the difference in the depth and quality of the relationship.

The old cliche is true, work first, on yourself and then you will find it easier to truly be there for another. Mindfulness helps us develop a loving, and compassionate relationship with ourselves.

Regardless of your current relationship status, developing and cultivating the practice of deep listening makes an incredibly positive impact. We can learn to listen to ourselves deeply and compassionately. This, in turn, will also help us to be present and listen to others compassionately as well. Being able to listen deeply and communicate from the heart makes all the difference in the world both in our inner dialogue and in our interactions with others.

Stillness and Breath

By taking time each day to sit in stillness and focus on our breath, we can create a sense of inner ease and lightness within our own being. This does not have to be a complicated process nor does it require that you magically “rid your mind of all thoughts.”

Instead, simply practice focusing on the breath or the sensations of the breath. If thoughts arise, allow them to do so without judgment. Then, gently invite the thought to float away, like. I like to picture a warm sunny day, mostly clear skies and a gentle warm breeze carrying them off into the distance. Each time a cloud of thought arises, release it and come back to the breath.

One of the simplest and easiest mindfulness mantras to follow for this practice is, “Breathing in, I know that I am breathing in. Breathing out, I know that I am breathing out.”  This can be simplified to just. “In, Out”. The mantra can help us focus inwardly and bring about healing and inner peace.

When we practice breathing mindfully, we increase our capacity to listen to ourselves deeply and compassionately. The more we cultivate this within ourselves, the more easily we are able to listen to others. When we listen to others, we can then do so with all of our loving presence.

Mantras in Relationship

One of our favorite mindfulness practices is the advice of cultivating these inner mantras when we are together as outlined in Thich Nhat Hahn’s book, Silence. We also use them on ourselves when we are working through personal discomfort and suffering.

  • “Darling, I am here for you.” This mantra invites us to give another our true presence.
  • “Darling, I know you are here, and I am very happy.” This mantra is to acknowledge the presence of the person you love.
  • “Darling, I know you suffer; that’s why I am here for you.” This mantra helps cultivate awareness and presence when another is struggling.
  • “Darling, I suffer; please help.” This is an especially powerful way of asking for support when we need it. It is meant to be said from a place of mindfulness as opposed to a moment of anger.

As you can see, this is something to make a deep study and daily practice of. Difficulties arise even in the best of relationships. A good relationship does not mean the absence of challenges or suffering. Healthy relationships are healthy because both parties have strong tools for working through challenges and disagreements. A regular mindfulness practice can make all the difference.

Reclaim Your Power in 2018

by Michael Hurley, L.Ac.

Do you ever find yourself biting your tongue when you know something is not right? Or yield to another person’s wishes because you feel obligated to make them happy? Or settle for less than what you know is possible?

The above examples are just a few ways so many of us give our POWER away every day and have for most of our lives.  When I say give our power away, I mean we settle.  We settle for things that we could have, we settle for how people treat us, we settle for emotions that are holding us back from what we want, we settle for a life that is less than what we could have.

We do this for many reasons, some of which seem, in our minds, very appropriate.  Maybe we hold ourselves back so that someone else does not feel bad, or we hold ourselves back to avoid a confrontation, or maybe we hold ourselves back because of something that we learned when we were young.  When we settle, when we don’t honor our needs or what is true for us, we give our power away.

This is where things get tricky.  Sometimes we don’t even realize we’re giving our power away. Our unconscious mind is what drives most of our lives.  It is how we connect with the Universe and all of her expressions.  Our unconscious mind is also where we hold onto thought patterns that either help us or hurt us.  We learn these at an early age where we are taught a way of behavior that gets reinforced over several years of “training” or programming.  This can cause poor or great relationships, poor or great health, poor or great financial status, etc.

Yet, our habits and our power are both simply energy patterns.  The great thing is that we, as humans, can not only identify these patterns but we can turn them around so that we are in more alignment of what we want out of lifeWe can move that energy the way we want.  Another way of putting this is we can take charge of our energy and reclaim our POWER.

What I would like to suggest is that all of us get back our Power in 2018.  I am not much of a New Year’s Resolution type of a guy but this year, I am committing to aligning myself to what I want out of life not what I think others want from me.

So, that is great, right?  Good job Mike.  More power to you.  Well, one, thanks for the support and two, let’s move on to how I and we all can do this if we choose.

Two Important Tools for Reclaiming Your Power:

Breathing.  That is the first thing we can do.  The location of our power center is about 2 inches below the navelChinese medicine calls this the dan tien which can be referred to as the “Sea of Qi”.  This is your center of gravity.  In martial arts, all of one’s power comes from this spot.  In Qi Gong and Tai Chi, we gather Qi and store it there.  If you have ever done yoga, you will be familiar with “belly breathing”.  This is when you breathe into your lower abdomen as opposed to your chest.

My point in telling you this is that breathing into your dan tien is essential for keeping perspective in life and staying grounded, which in turn helps you maintain your own power.  If we can have perspective, we can see that life is actually working for us instead of against us.  We can stay out of our own drama as well as other people’s drama which will conserve our energy so that it can be used for things that benefit us and those around us.

Fake it till you make it.  Yes, fake it. I really love this practice.  The theory is that we manifest our thoughts. Our brain can change our outer circumstances to a good circumstance, a bad circumstance, or anything in between regardless of the reality of the circumstance.  It just takes consistent thought.  If we keep telling ourselves that our life is good and actually begin to believe it, we decrease anxiety and become more outgoing.  This has side effects like people wanting to help us and becoming aware of new opportunities.

Tuning in with your breath and shifting our thoughts can make all the difference. These two things and more attract other people and make them more willing to help in various ways.  Instantly, our lives are better.  Then, if we keep practicing breath awareness and actively choosing positive thoughts, it becomes a habit and over time our lives become infinitely better.

It is a good idea to have a daily reminder, especially at first.  The most important part to remember—we are trying to undo a habit of negative thought as well as set up a habit of positive thought.  This can be reading books about mindfulness, setting up a daily calendar reminder, or even adding a sticky note to your work laptop or monitor.

So, remember to breathe and think positively, even if you need to fake it for a while.  These two seemingly insignificant things can make a world of difference in your next year.

Here’s to your 2018!  Happy New Year!

Improve Your Life with Qi Gong

by Michael Hurley L.Ac.

Are you looking for a gentle, efficient practice to improve your health, clear your mind, improve your mood, and give you lasting energy throughout your day?  If so, I invite you to learn about Qi Gong.  Developed in China thousands of years ago, the people of China have practiced Qi Gong for its health benefits ranging from general relaxation to improving their martial arts practice.

Qi Gong is an integral part of my daily practice.  It helps me stay both calm and energetic in my personal and professional life.  In this article, we explore the benefits and practice of this ancient Chinese art.

Qi (“chee” ) is our life-force or vital energy.  It is the energy that flows through all things in the universe.  Gong (“gung”) means accomplishment or skill through practice.  If we put them together, we get Qi Gong or the cultivation of life-force through practice.  This may seem esoteric but it is actually very practical.  If we want to get better at something, we practice it.  The same goes for being relaxed, breathing, and keeping ourselves in balance all of which can be easy to forget in our busy lives.

Qi Gong is used to unite the body, breath, and mind.  Knowing that we can almost envision how a Qi Gong practice is done.  It is a series of movements done in conjunction with our breath.  The mind piece comes in when we talk about focus.  We clear our minds and remain in the present moment.  During the practice, we only think about the movements and the breath.

Qi Gong can be used for various purposes by adapting the speed and intention.  For relaxation and general health, we may practice slowly and softly like in Tai Chi.  If we are practicing Qi Gong for martial arts training, we may practice in a faster and harder manner like in Kung Fu.  Both Tai Chi and Kung Fu are forms of Qi Gong.

Everyone can benefit from a Qi Gong practice regardless of age, spiritual belief, or physical differences.  Children can increase focus in school.  Office workers can reduce stress to avoid burnout.  Seniors can promote balance and improve their quality of life.  People with physical handicaps can increase strength and improve circulation regardless of limitations of movement.  Medical professionals and caregivers can improve their ability to heal their patients.

When I was in school studying Chinese Medicine, two of the required courses were Qi Gong and Tai Chi.  I took these during the first couple of trimesters and fell in Love.  I was working 40-60 hours a week as a software engineer and maintaining a family while going to school most nights at a full-time status. These practices kept me strong, healthy, and peaceful (mostly) throughout the entire process, which lasted 5 years.  I would like to emphasize that it is not required to keep a schedule like that in order to have Qi Gong be useful.  In fact, I would highly recommend not doing that and simply making Qi Gong part of your everyday life.

It is very easy to start practicing Qi Gong. Many of us have access to the internet and can search for Qi Gong instructional videos.  The local bookstores and libraries have books and DVDs about Qi Gong.  You can search for local Qi Gong instructors or meet-up groups.  Looking into these is a good way to start.  Cup of Life Healing Center does not currently have an offering but we plan to begin a regular class or a series of classes sometime in 2018.  Please inquire if you would be interested.

If you decide that Qi Gong is something that you want to continue, get more training.  The best way to choose your instructor is to trust your intuition.  Some criteria to keep in mind when choosing a qualified instructor would be:  what is their background and experience; are they of good character; do they treat people fairly and with respect; do they live what they teach; do they refrain from making unsubstantiated claims; do they encourage and bring out a student’s highest potential?

  • This article was written by Michael Hurley L.Ac. Michael is the co-owner and acupuncturist at Cup of Life Healing Center located at 82 Washington Street Suite 2 in Keene, NH.