Healing of One Veteran’s Child

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

At a time of year when many of us have just spent a day celebrating our nation’s freedom and independence, I am reminded of all those who have served and sacrificed to bring us these freedoms. It is from this place and a place of personal connection that I share with you the incredible work of The Warrior Connection (TWC), an organization that holds retreats to help both male and female combat veterans overcome PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) and/or MST (Military Sexual Trauma).

This is the story of why Cup of Life Healing Center supports TWC.  It is the telling of a journey that comes from my authentic heart and something I’ve never shared so publicly before.  It is a story of a little girl who longed for her daddy to heal.  She found deep healing, understanding, peace, and inner wisdom through the work of TWC.  That little girl lives inside me.

I am the child of a Vietnam veteran and I tell this story for children of veterans and veterans everywhere in hopes that they too may know that deep healing is possible and literally just a phone call away.

I want to be very clear from the start – I hold no ill regard for my father.  On the contrary, I know beyond a shadow of doubt that he always did the very best he could with the tools he had at the time. My heart embraces him with the greatest and warmest regard, with unconditional love, compassion, and respect.  I will always be thankful that he unknowingly taught me the true value of this work.

Like many young men from the Vietnam era, my father responded to the call of the draft.  He served in the US Army Special Forces Group, a Green Beret.  Like so many who have seen combat, he returned from war with internal wounds that run deep to the core.  One of my strongest childhood memories is experiencing the intensity of the flashbacks and nightmares that haunted his dreams. Witnessing these and other pains impressed upon my heart, the utmost desire for my father to be freed from these inner demons and my own inner longing to understand.  As a young child, I did not know his wounds were not my burden to bear.

Just over two years ago, I sat for 5 days in cardiac ICU, watching my father on full life support, after 8 hours of open heart surgery.  I’ve sat by my father’s hospital bedside many times in my life for varying medical issues. But in these 5 days, I truly did not know whether he would live or die.  This initiated a healing process that continues to this day.  In those 5 days, I resolved to show my father my unconditional love and acceptance, even though I did not understand what he’d been through.  I had no idea at the time, that this was just the beginning.

18 months later, this past October, I received a call from one of my Reiki students who happened to be a graduate of TWC.  She told me Reiki healers were needed at one of the men’s retreats. I knew in an instant that I must go.  I had no idea saying “yes” to that one simple request would spark not one, but two inner callings.  First was the calling to do my own deeper healing work around this aspect of my life, to move beyond acceptance to a true understanding. And second, a calling to share healing work with veterans, to be a part of the solution.

When I arrived at TWC for the first time, I had no idea what to expect.  What I found blew me away, left me speechless.  I met a room full of veterans from varying branches of service, having seen combat in many different wars and conflicts.  It was no mistake that there were two Vietnam veterans among the group, one of which had served in a very similar capacity to my father.  What I experienced the moment I walked through the doors of TWC was a room full of men, all with opening hearts and clearly in the process of deep soulful healing–veterans on a path to discovering deeper peace and inner wisdom!  The sight instantly challenged my idea of the depth of healing that is possible.

I found myself caught off guard, surprised, and choked up for words when simply mentioning that my father had served.  Until that moment, it had not occurred to me that I have rarely spoken about this part of my childhood, much like my father rarely spoke of his experiences in Vietnam. I knew right then and there, that I must pursue this work and support this organization.  I knew in my core that something magical was going on in this beautiful home in rural Vermont.  I have been volunteering in some capacity ever since.

After many months of volunteering behind the scenes, the pull to do even more was so strong; I could no longer ignore my heart’s desire.  So, I entered into the process of training to become a certified TWC Retreat Facilitator. I participated in a men’s warrior retreat as a Level I facilitator trainee.  Not only did I witness the incredible, deep healing of a group of veterans, but my own personal healing journey began to unfold as well.  This continued throughout the second phase just this past weekend when I attended the official facilitator training course.

It was during this second training weekend that I discovered and healed the hole in my little girl’s heart; one I had not consciously known was there.  I experienced fully some of the very processes the veterans do during the TWC retreats. As a result, I was given a gift, a piece of my Soul back that I didn’t even realize was covered.  It is from this newly whole place that I share this story and from this place that I am honored to continue to serve those who have served.

This is my story and how I and Cup of Life have come to wholeheartedly support the incredible work of TWC

TWC’s motto is “No Soul Left Behind.”  They say, “While the mission is over, the inner journey continues…”  This truly is a place that serves the overall well-being of veterans and their families. The retreats are all done in a small group setting and virtually at no cost to the veteran. This is one of the most authentic greater good organizations I have ever seen!

****About The Warrior Connection****

The Warrior Connection (TWC), is a Vermont-based, Veteran lead nonprofit.  TWC’s mission is to improve the overall well-being of our Veterans and their families.  TWC hosts residential retreats and provides services to our Veterans and their families, helping them recover and heal from the invisible injuries incurred while in uniform.

Since 2010, The Warrior Connection has been working diligently with Veterans to decrease the negative impacts of Post-Traumatic Stress (PTSD), Military Sexual Assault (MST), heal moral injuries, and reduce both suicide and divorce. 

For more information about TWC, donate, or to inquire about their healing retreats, please contact Aaron Phillips, TWC’s Executive Director:   aaron@warriorconnection.org or call 866-278-3155.

Summer and Your Health: Put Your Plan into Action

by Michael Hurley L.Ac. – Co-founder and acupuncturist at Cup of Life Healing Center

Ahh! Finally!  Summer is almost here!  While spring is a time to start planting seeds for our plan for this year and to start to see them grow, summer is about abundance and happiness.  We see the fruits of our labor flourish.

In this article, we’ll take a look at how Traditional Chinese Medicine looks at the summer season. How does the season affect your overall well-being? What can you do to ensure good health in the summer?

According to TCM, the element of summer is fire.  Our organ systems most affected are the heart and small Intestine systems. The emotion associated with these organs and therefore summer, is joy.  While these are the areas that are ripe to be nurtured and flourish in the summer, they are also the ones that can end up falling out of balance the most easily during the season.  Just as gardens must be weeded with care if our fruits and vegetables are to grow well, we must also give extra attention and care to the parts of ourselves most affected by the season.

First, let’s look at the element of Fire.  Fire is the most Yang of the elements.  When we think of Fire, we think of heat, outgoingness, and expression.  We want to cultivate this fire within us, but not to excess. We should keep this in mind when we think of how we are taking care of ourselves.

As opposed to winter where we hibernate and rest, summer is a time of going out and having funThe key for good health in the summer is connection.  We should be meeting with friends and family because that love connection nourishes our hearts.  Like the spring, this is an exciting time, and staying indoors will suffocate the heart and promote depression.

When the heart is balanced, the mind is calm and we enjoy peaceful sleep. A balanced heart is also more motivated to engage in cardiovascular activity.  So, if you’re feeling unmotivated or experiencing restless nights, these may be indications of imbalance. Agitation, nervousness and insomnia are also indicators that the heart may be imbalanced.  In this state, making a few key changes can make all the difference.

Another thing to keep in mind is summer’s effect on existing conditions. One thing that my patients will hear me say often is that our bodies, and minds, are a microcosm of the world we see around us. People will complain of aches and pains being more pronounced when it is cold and rainy outside.  They are often disappointed when I tell them it is because the weather is exacerbating the already present dampness in their bodies.  In the summer, it gets hot.  That heat is also can also show up within our bodies and minds as rashes and agitation.  So, we need to be proactive to keep that in balance.

Below are some recommendations to help you achieve or maintain summer time balance:

To nourish the Heart, we want to clean up our diet.  In regards to foods, eat lots of red foods as red is the color of the fire element.  The taste of the fire element is bitter.  Bitter foods stimulate the Heart Qi so try adding bitter foods into your diet.  Examples of bitter foods are dandelion greens, coffee, wild cucumber, and asparagus.

Some examples of other foods that are good for the summertime but may or may not necessarily be specifically beneficial to the heart include: watermelon, cucumber, corn, mint, dill, watercress, lemon, and green leafy vegetables.  It is not coincidence that many of us have always enjoyed these foods during the summer.  They keep you cool by releasing excess heat from your body and nourishing your Yin.  Drink from a glass of lemon, mint, or cucumber infused water by you as much as you can.  Try to avoid greasy and heavy foods.  Eat in moderation and try not to become too full, especially if you still have daytime activities to perform.

We require less sleep in the summer, so don’t be afraid to stay out with friends a little later.  At the same time, try not to sleep in so late in the morning.  This may be a good time to try introducing early morning exercise especially since it will start getting hotter as the day goes on.

If you get tired, try to take a rest in the middle of the day.  Drink lots of water to stay hydrated.  Remember that Fire is heat so you may be more susceptible to dehydration.  Also, try to avoid conflict that would make you angry.  Stay even-tempered.  Don’t worry, be happy should be your mantra.

I hope you have enjoyed this article and I hope you enjoy the new season.  Remember to visit your acupuncturist regularly to prevent illness and injury.  Please try to eat locally.  It not only helps out local farmers but the food will be in season and in tune to you and your surroundings.

How Can Acupuncture Help with Diabetes?

by Michael Hurley, L.Ac.

According to the American Diabetes Association, in 2012, 29.1 million Americans had diabetes.  It is estimated that about 208,000 of these people are under the age of 20.  Diabetes is the 7th leading cause of death in the United States. To give an idea on the enormous prevalence of diabetes: In 2012, the total sales of worldwide diabetes medicine were nearly 35 billion US dollars.  Standard and Poor’s estimated that the total sales would be more than 58 billion US dollars in 2018.

While the above may be common knowledge, what may surprise you is that acupuncture and herbal medicine have been used to treat diabetes for over 2000 years. Traditional Chinese Medicine describes diabetes with the term “Xiao Ke” or, in English, “wasting and thirsting disease”.  Xiao Ke is discussed in great detail in a classic Chinese medical text, the Nei Jing, which was compiled around 100 B.C.  This text describes the patients’ symptoms.  Examples include: excessive hunger and thirst, frequent urination, and rapid weight loss.  These, of course, are all common symptoms of diabetes that we are familiar with today as well.

Western medicine breaks down diabetes into three main forms:

  • Type 1 Diabetes (formerly called juvenile-onset or insulin-dependent diabetes): Type 1 diabetes accounts for 5 to 10% of people who have diabetes. In type 1 diabetes, the person has a total lack of insulin. The body’s immune system destroys the cells in the pancreas that release insulin until, eventually, the body stops producing insulin.
  • Type 2 Diabetes (formerly called adult-onset or non–insulin-dependent diabetes): Type 2 diabetes accounts for 90 to 95% of people who have diabetes and can develop at any age.  It most commonly becomes apparent during adulthood, but type 2 diabetes in children is rising. In type 2 diabetes, the body isn’t able to use insulin the correct way.  This is called insulin resistance.  As type 2 diabetes progresses, the pancreas may make less and less insulin leading to insulin deficiency.
  • Diabetes Insipidus: This is an uncommon disorder characterized by intense thirst, despite the drinking of fluids (polydipsia), and the excretion of large amounts of urine (polyuria).  In most cases, it’s the result of your body not properly producing, storing or releasing antidiuretic hormone, but diabetes insipidus can also occur when your kidneys are unable to respond properly to that hormone.  On rare occasions, diabetes insipidus can occur during pregnancy (gestational diabetes insipidus).

As I have written in a previous blog post, the primary goal of acupuncture is balance.  As an acupuncturist, I evaluate four interdependent aspects:  Yin, Yang, Qi, and Blood.  The balanced flow of Qi is essential for overall well-being. Qi needs to flow freely into the body for all the organ systems to work together in balance and harmony.

Xiao Ke (diabetes) is caused by an imbalance of the flow of Qi within the meridians and organ systems –specifically, the spleen/pancreas (which are considered interrelated in Chinese medicine), stomach, and the intestines. Because food and water are not effectively processed, this ultimately blocks the flow of Qi. This particular imbalance produces heat that depletes the body’s fluids and Qi causing symptoms such as: fatigue, lethargy, unexplained weight loss, polydipsia, polyuria, polyphagia, poor wound healing, infections, irritability, and blurry vision.

Treating Diabetes:

While treatment approaches differ between Traditional Chinese and western medicines, both systems agree: It is essential for people to make healthy lifestyle choices in diet, exercise, and other health habits.  Diet changes are by far the most important that can be made.  The key is to avoid sugar and high calorie diets. Also, the American Diabetes Association (ADA) recommends most patients with diabetes engage in at least 150 minutes of moderate to intense aerobic physical activity on a weekly basis, with strength training at least two days a week.

In treating Xiao Ke, Chinese medicine offers a way to address each patient individually to eliminate the symptoms associated with diabetes and reduce the need for insulin medications.  Overall treatment focuses on regulating the circulation of blood and Qi and balancing the organ systems to improve pancreatic function and address internal heat and the depletion of fluids. The practitioner may choose to use a variety of techniques during treatment including acupuncture, Chinese herbal medicine, bodywork, lifestyle/dietary recommendations, and Qi Gong. Regular care is typically one to three acupuncture treatments per week depending on the severity of your symptoms.

Taking Charge of Your Health with Acupuncture

by Michael Hurley, L.Ac.

In last month’s article, I discussed the steps you can take, as an acupuncture patient, to ensure the optimal results from your treatments.  This month, I will focus on what actions and changes you can make in between acupuncture treatments.  These are actions that will empower you to take charge of your own health so that therapies such as acupuncture, chiropractic, and even western medicine become supportive to your health as opposed to paramount.

To put it another way, a large majority of people’s health issues can be traced back to habits in their current lifestyle.  While everyone will receive some benefit from regular acupuncture, the greatest, most long-lasting benefit will occur when you play an equal role and take responsibility to begin changing the key factors in your life that are causing or exacerbating your condition.

So, in the days around your treatments, you will want to be working on making the necessary lifestyle changes to optimize your health and well-being. While there are many factors, the most essential are sleep, diet (I do not mean fad dieting), and exercise.

Sleep:
Many people tell me that their bodies only need four hours of sleep per night, as if they are super-human.  Yet, these are the same folks coming to me with chronic pain or depression or the ones who get a sinus infection every time the season changes.

Getting enough sleep is essential to your overall health and well-being. During restful sleep, our bodies are busy actively restoring and rejuvenating, growing muscles, repairing tissue, and even synthesizing hormones. During this time your brain is also sorting and storing information, replacing naturally occurring chemicals needed for our functioning, and solving problems.

On a mental/emotional level, studies show sleep deficiency can cause difficulty with decision making, problem solving, controlling emotions and coping with change.  Studies have also linked lack of sleep to depression, suicide, and risk-taking behavior.

Sleep affects the physical body too.  Chronic sleep deprivation is connected to increased risk of disease such as: heart disease, kidney disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, stroke as well as increased risk of obesity.  Last, but not least, lack of sleep can also lead to a depleted immune system, making it more difficult to ward-off and/or fight common infections.

Sleep is essential. Every adult human needs 6 to 8 hours of sleep on the norm per night. Children need even more. If you are having difficulty sleeping at night, consider implementing a relaxing nighttime routine; avoid heavy meals in the evening; and avoid electronics right before bed.

Diet:
Your diet is very important as well.  While it is okay for most to indulge themselves around holidays or special events, it is important to keep things in moderation.

You will want to limit sugar, especially added sugar.  While it may be obvious to limit sodas, cookies, and well-known sugary items, it is easy to forget that manufacturers add sugar many items. Get in the habit of checking the ingredient labels. You’ll be surprised to find how many everyday items have high amounts of sugar, fructose or other sweeteners added.  This is especially true of highly processed and fast foods.  It is also common in foods we tend to think of as “healthy” such as protein bars or yogurt.

Eat lots of vegetables.  It is virtually impossible to eat too many vegetables.  Try to keep a balance of colors with you vegetables too.  This will ensure you are getting a good variety of nutrients.  Vegetables will also help add more water to your diet which is, of course, my next point.

You should try to drink at least 64 ounces of water per day.  That is water, not tea or any other beverage.  Any other beverage should not count toward your 64 ounces.  Some people say that you should drink even more water than that depending on your size or activity.  I say, if you normally drink 24 ounces per day and you bump it up to 64, you will be doing much better.  Remember that water is going to help everything in your body work better.  For coffee drinkers, you should add an 8 ounce glass of water to that 64 for every 6 ounces of coffee or caffeinated tea that you consume.  Caffeine is a diuretic which will cause you to lose water so it must be replaced.

Exercise:
People should be getting at least 30 minutes of exercise per day.  However, this is another area that needs to be kept in moderation.  This 30 minutes could be a post-dinner walk or an intense athletic workout.  If you tend toward the latter, you absolutely need to be sure to increase your sleep as well as your food and water intake to support this.

Remember that your goal is to be balanced.  Exercise is a Yang activity so the more Yang activity you perform, the more Yin activity you need to perform to balance that out.  When I talk about Yin activity, I am referring to sleep, meditation, etc.

I know that not everyone is accustomed to exercising intentionally so I will list out a few forms of exercise to get you started.  Some forms that you can safely do on your own are walking, running, hiking, and riding your bike.  The following forms of exercise I recommend seeking instruction to ensure your safety and optimal benefit.  These are weightlifting, Tai Chi, Qi Gong, Yoga, and martial arts.

Of course, these are not the only forms of exercise that exist but I wanted to give you some options to start you off.  The key is to pick something that you will enjoy doing and do it safely because otherwise it will simply be another stress in your life.

This concludes this series about what acupuncture is and how you can use it to your benefit.  I do hope that you found it useful.  Please do not be afraid to ask me questions.  I may not have time to go in depth at the time of your appointment but we can certainly schedule a time to talk on the phone or email.

Acupuncturists love what they do and we also love educating people about what they can do to help themselves.  It truly is a People’s medicine and the more empowered you are as a patient, the more successful we consider ourselves as practitioners.  If you have not already, please read the previous two articles in this series, Understanding the Goal of Acupuncture and Get the Most from Your Acupuncture Treatments, to catch up on any information you may have missed.

Next month, I will start a series of articles about common western health conditions and how Chinese Medicine looks at these as well as what I do or would do to treat a patient with that condition.  I will start off with some common conditions but if you have a condition that you are curious about, common or uncommon, tell me and I will certainly write an article about it in the future.

Get the Most from Your Acupuncture Treatments

by Michael Hurley, L.Ac.

In last month’s article, I discussed the proactive approach acupuncture takes to managing overall health as well as some components I look at in my patients when they come in for treatment.  This month, we’ll focus on how to get the greatest benefit from acupuncture and what to do the day of an acupuncture treatment to help optimize its effectiveness.

Understanding Your Treatment Plan:

Simply put, you will get out of acupuncture what you put in to acupuncture.  What I mean is: If you follow your treatment plan given to you by your acupuncturist and concentrate on one or two issues at a time, you will most likely be very happy with your results.  If you only seek a couple of treatments for an issue that requires several treatments or come in for treatment too infrequently, you will very likely be disappointed in your results.

One analogy many people can relate to is to think of your acupuncture treatment plan in the same way you would consider prescribed medication.  If your western medical doctor prescribed a course of antibiotics for an infection and you took it only one or two times, likely the infection would not go away or may even get worse.  The same goes for acupuncture, which is most effective when it is received regularly and as prescribed by your acupuncturist.

It is very common for a treatment plan to include two or more treatments per week for several weeks.  While this varies based on an individual’s condition, in my practice, I typically ask patients to come in twice per week for four weeks to start.  Often, this is all a patient needs provide relief for the condition they originally came in for. However, in many cases, conditions require much more.  A general rule of thumb is that younger patients and more acute conditions require less treatment than older patients and more chronic conditions.

Role of Healing Phases and Treatment Frequency:

We often share the above image explain how we approach treatment frequency.  Remember, acupuncture is always working to address the underlying cause of issue.  So, we look at treatment in terms of phases in a healing process and the frequency of treatment is directly related.

  • Relief Stage: In the initial treatment of an issue, the goal is to provide relief. During the relief stage of healing, treatments are most frequent and often spaced relatively close together.
  • Healing Stage: Once symptoms are relieved, acupuncture treatments focus more deeply on healing the underlying cause of the issue. At the healing stage, the treatment plan often includes tapering back on the frequency of visits.  Patients should still come in at the frequency recommended by their acupuncturist to bring healing and balance to underlying causes.
  • Maintenance Stage: This stage is where the proactive nature of Chinese medicine makes a big difference! When you are in this stage of healing, you are overall relatively healthy.  During this phase of treatment, the goal is to continue to optimize your overall health and balance.  The treatment plan includes regular, but usually much less frequent visits to help proactively bolster the immune system.  Our patients who receive regular acupuncture at this phase often tell us that they are amazed that their immune system is strong enough to prevent illness or find the duration of an illness is limited.

Optimal Post Treatment Practices:

How you care for yourself both immediately following treatment and in your overall lifestyle can make an important difference.  Here are few things you can do after your appointment to increase the benefits of your acupuncture treatment.

It is important to rest.  After acupuncture, you will want to avoid vigorous exercise or other strenuous activities.  While naps or spending the rest of the day in bed are not necessary afterward, you will want to take it easy.  So, putting some thought into scheduling your treatments is helpful.

You will also want to make an effort to avoid stressful situations.  I realize that sometimes this cannot be avoided.  However, I also realize that often times it can.  What I mean is that it is helpful to become aware of and learn how to work with your own energy boundaries.  Doing so can help you deflect and/or release any negative energy you may take on during difficult moments.  This becomes especially important if you tend to take on negative energy when spending time with certain individuals or in certain situations.

Temperature is another factor to consider.  Temperatures can get extreme here in the Northeast.  You will want to dress accordingly and try to plan your day so that you are not exposed to extreme temperatures after an acupuncture treatment.  When it is very hot or very cold outside, these are stresses that your body will need to deal with and may throw off the balance that we have attained.  It is best to try to avoid prolonged exposure to either right after an acupuncture treatment.  It’s not something to panic over but rather something to be aware of.

I am also often asked about timing other self-care appointments. I will hear, “It is alright to get a massage or go to a chiropractor before or after an acupuncture treatment?”  I always say yes.  In fact, if you were to do all three in one day, in my opinion, it should be acupuncture, massage, and then chiropractic.  The acupuncture will make the massage therapist’s job easier and then the chiropractor will be able to make adjustments that he or she may normally not be able to do.

I hope the above helps you more fully understand what you can do to attain the greatest benefit from acupuncture.  In my next article, I will discuss things you can do to help yourself in between treatments, especially if you are in the maintenance phase of treatment.

Understanding the Goal of Acupuncture

by Michael Hurley, L.Ac.

For a vast majority of people, we’ve been taught to call the western medical doctor only when we are sick, hurt, need medication or perhaps need an operation or are contending with a life-threatening illness.  In other words, we’ve become accustomed to seek out healthcare on a reactive basis.  When it comes to understanding acupuncture, however, we need to revise our definition of healthcare.

Yes, it is true, acupuncture can provide healing and relief for a wide range of medical conditions. The World Health Organization provides a comprehensive list of conditions shown to benefit from acupuncture.

At Cup of Life Healing Center, we regularly treat: chronic pain, arthritis, migraines, depression, addiction, and many other common ailments.   We also find many people seek out acupuncture as a last resort, out of frustration, after exhausting a long list of other attempts for elusive and chronic conditions.  Yes, acupuncture can be a key part of the answer in these situations.  However, the goal of acupuncture is much broader than this.

In eastern approaches such as Traditional Chinese Medicine, a proactive approach to healthcare is used.  The primary goal of acupuncture is balance.  As an acupuncturist, I evaluate four interdependent aspects:  Yin, Yang, Qi, and Blood.  Yin is our substance.  It is what we can see and touch on our body.  Yang is what gives us function.  Qi is the “energy” flowing through us.  Blood is what we all know as blood.  When any one of these aspects is out of balance, disharmony occurs in the form of disease or pain.  It is my job as an acupuncturist to see where these four aspects are out of balance and treat them accordingly.  This may involve a course of acupuncture treatment, herbs, other lifestyle considerations, or any combination of these.

When the four aspects—Yin, Yang, Qi, and Blood—are in balance, our bodies function as they should. For example, many of my patients who come in every week or every other week, often are elated to tell me that they are “not getting sick.”  They say they have always “gotten sick” in the winter when they are around others who are who are ill.  They are amazed that their immune system is strong enough to prevent illness or find the duration of an illness is limited.

A holistic life-style, including regular acupuncture, is a proactive way to bolster the immune system.  A healthy immune system reduces the severity of illness to a level that our bodies can manage naturally.  So, while it is normal to feel under the weather from time to time, bodies in a more balanced state are strong enough to recover quickly.

In the future, I will write more articles delve into greater detail on the ways to achieve balance including: frequency of treatment, dietary guidelines, and lifestyle suggestions all from a Chinese Medicine perspective.  As you will see, it is a little different than what we are accustomed to here in the west and in America specifically.

Keep It Simple

by Tricia “Satya” Hurley

Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated. ~Confucius

christmastree2When the New Year arrives, I feel a familiar tug of sadness. “It’s time to take down the tree,” a little voice inside me prods. Each year I resist the voice, putting off the task just a bit longer. This year in particular, I’m especially glad I did.

I love sitting in the quiet of the morning. A cup of joe warms my hands while my eyes transfix on the soft, glowing lights. This morning’s gaze brought an unexpected gift of wisdom: All I need to know and do in the coming year is right here on the tree.

Our first Christmas tree as a couple was adorned with hand-me-down decorations and a handful of ornaments I picked up at the local Kmart. Only a few ornaments remain from that first tree over 20 years ago. In their place, a story of our family’s journey and the lessons of wisdom unfold.

At the very top our tree, a hand-made star our daughter created in 3rd grade. There’s also preschool art: a 2-year old hand-print turned into Santa’s beard, and of course the Lenox Winnie the Pooh’s – one for each year of our daughter’s life, school pictures dangling in frames and a plethora of other creations.

There’s truly nothing like a growing child to remind us of what’s important. The first lesson: Slow down. Be present. Enjoy every moment. Open your eyes and celebrate your blessings every day, no matter how big or small.

Other ornaments speak to the second lesson, the gifts of connection, kindness, and friendship: a hand-painted pine cone from an old friend’s wedding, 12-days of Christmas ornaments from Michael’s grandmother who passed on last fall, and many others from family, neighbors, and friends. You see, when we heed the first lesson – to slow down and be present, it seems there is so much more time to nurture and cultivate deep and lasting connections.

Last, but not least, the white lights. They are especially beautiful as they shimmer through one of my favorite ornaments, a crystal clear ballerina doing a pirouette. They remind me to keep it simple. All too often we get caught up in the hustle and bustle of life, which can seem to get, oh, so complicated and confusing. Which brings us full circle back to the first lesson: Slow down. Be Present. Celebrate your blessings every day.

Balance Point

by Tricia Hurley, M. Ed., Co-Founder and Reiki Master Teacher at Cup of Life Healing Center

No matter who you are or where you are in life, everyone experiences a natural cycle of ups and downs. We have found that having a set of “go-to” tools helps us navigate day-to-day life and makes an incredible difference in helping us maintain or return to a place of homeostasis, a place of centered balance. Regular acupuncture and/or Reiki are certainly effective tools in supporting this balance, as well as overall health and well-being. Outside of these treatments, there is much each one of us can do on a daily basis to promote and support a greater sense of balance in our daily lives.

One of our most relied upon tools in our personal practice is to work with the breath. Many people think of the breath as an “involuntary by-product” of being alive; you don’t really think about breathing, it just sort of happens. However, one incredibly powerful way to invite a sense of balance into your life is to consciously work with the breath, as there is an innate body, mind, spirit connection, especially when we practice conscious breathing.

Have you ever noticed a tendency to hold your breath during times of worry or stress? When you finally let go of something that is difficult, do you find you can “breathe easier”? Consider these parallels between breath and thoughts:

  • We cannot see either, but we know them by their effect on our feelings of well-being.
  • Rapid, uncontrolled breathing and thoughts both usually reflect physical or mental stress.
  • Slow, deliberate breathing reflects a state of calm, concentration, or steady thought.

Yogis have known this connection for thousands of years and we can use this ancient wisdom to help us navigate our modern world. One of the most well-known yogic breaths is the Ujjayi breath (pronounced oo-jai) and is commonly translated as “victorious breath.” The ujjayi breath is both calming and energizing and can bring a profound sense of peace. Its practice invites a full awareness and control of the breath.

To practice the ujjayi breath, a light constriction is made at the back of the throat, which controls and slows inhalation and exhalation. This creates an “ocean-like” quality to the sound of the breath that is soothing, peaceful and rhythmic. Ujjayi breath is most commonly practiced with equal length inhalations and exhalations.

Try this:

  1. Once an hour, pause what you are doing.
  2. Set a timer for 1 minute.
  3. Close your eyes and practice the ujjayi breath.
  4. Breath in peace; Breath out worries, tensions, etc.
  5. When the timer beeps, gently open your eyes and return to your day.

The beauty of this practice: You’ll still have the other 59 minutes in your hour to get the other so called “important” things in life done. Perhaps, with addition of this practice you’ll accomplish them with a just a little more ease and grace throughout the day!

Spring and your Health: Put Your Plan into Action

By Michael Hurley L.Ac. – Co-Founder and Acupuncturist at Cup of Life Healing Center

It has been a long winter and, although I do like winter, I am ready for a thaw.  I am sure many of you are as well.  In this article, I am going to take a look at how Chinese medicine looks at the spring season.  Previously, I wrote an article about winter and that winter is a time of reflection and planning.  Spring is a time to start planting seeds for that plan and to start to see them grow.

In Chinese Medicine, the body is made up of various channels or pathways that Qi flows.  These correspond to organ systems and have, over the years, been associated with certain characteristics.  For instance, the Liver and Gallbladder systems are associated with the spring.  The emotion of the Liver/Gallbladder is anger.  The element of spring is Wood.  When we think of wood, we think of growth, strength, and flexibility.  We should keep this in mind when we think of how we are taking care of ourselves this spring.  Spring has an outward movement quality to it.  This is why many chronic conditions will worsen in the spring.  They have been lying dormant all winter and come out in the spring just like a seedling.

The key for good health in the spring is movement.  Get outside and enjoy nature.  This is an exciting time and staying indoors is going to promote depression.  Allow the outward movement to take place.  Wear loose clothing and stay flexible.  Proper stretching before and after exercise will prevent injury and make your time outdoors so much more enjoyable.  Wearing loose clothing will help the body to vent which will prevent heat from accumulating.  Staying properly hydrated will support your increase in exercise as well by feeding the cells and regulating your body temperature.  Remember, spring is the season of the wood element.  Wood needs water to stay flexible and so do you.

To nourish the Liver, we want to clean up our diet.  In regards to foods, eat lots of green foods as green is the color of the wood element.  The taste of the wood element is sour.  Sour foods stimulate the Liver Qi so try adding sour foods into your diet.  Putting lemons in your water is a good way to do this.  Cleansing the Liver is a good way to avoid common spring conditions like allergies, eye disorders, and any other heat conditions.  Some more liver cleansing foods are garlic, grapefruit, apples, and beets.  Foods like celery, cucumber, bananas, and pears will help to clear excess heat that may be accumulating in your body.  You will know there is heat accumulating in your body if you notice signs such as bad breath, constipation, darker urine, and a thicker tongue coating.

I hope you have enjoyed this article and I hope you enjoy the new season.  Remember to visit your acupuncturist regularly to prevent illness and injury.  Please try to eat locally.  It not only helps out local farmers but the food will be in tune to you and your surroundings.

Fighting the Winter Blues with Acupuncture

By Michael Hurley L.Ac. – Co-Founder and Acupuncturist at Cup of Life Healing Center

There is no denying that it is winter now with snowfall becoming a more regular occurrence and temperatures hovering in the single digits.  With winter, some of us get the “winter blues”.  Sometimes, those blues are a deeper problem called Seasonal Affective Disorder or SAD.  SAD can be debilitating during these long, cold New Hampshire months.  This article will attempt to describe what SAD is and explain some suggestions for dealing with it and preventing it from occurring.

During the winter, approximately 50% of Americans, maybe even you, experience a depression ranging in severity and symptoms.  Some of these symptoms could be decreased energy, body weight fluctuations, cravings for carbohydrates, changes in sleep patterns, trouble with concentration, and an increased intensity of emotions (especially irritation and sadness.)  For those who already experience depression throughout the year, these symptoms can seem unbearable.  Of course, these symptoms can bring about other symptoms such as more aches and pains and a decreased immunity.  Many pains that we do not think about on a regular basis suddenly become more noticeable when we experience depression or a decrease in energy.  This also holds true for our susceptibility of getting sick.

Western medicine explains that SAD occurs because of our decreased exposure to sunlight.  Our serotonin levels drop when we are not regularly exposed to sunlight, like we are in the warmer months.  Serotonin is a hormone that is responsible for regulating our moods.  Chinese medicine says that the Qi, or life force energy, in the Liver meridian becomes stagnant.

Whichever way you look at it, there are things that you can do to help yourself.  Some things that you can do for yourself to lift your mood are meditate, use uplifting essential oils (sage, bergamot, sandalwood, mandarin, lemongrass, and grapefruit), exercise (20-30 minutes a day), quit smoking, and visit your local acupuncturist.

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.

Depression is not something to take lightly.  If you experiences 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 know yourself to become a little down during the winter.