Wednesday, October 19, 2011

New Office!

In November, I'll begin seeing patients at a new West Berkeley location:

The Foundation of the Sacred Stream center
2149 Byron Street (@ Allston Way)
Berkeley, 94702

To schedule an appointment, please contact me at:

Open House - Sunday, Oct 23

Come see my new office!

You're invited to a special Open House at the Foundation of the Sacred Stream.

Sunday, October 23
2149 Byron St., Berkeley, CA

Tour the beautiful center & gardens.
Learn about the Foundation and its programs.
Meet Stephanie & the other holistic wellness practitioners working in the center.

The open house will include a brief (10-minute) presentation on the intersection of Buddhism and Shamanism by Isa Gucciardi, PhD, Founding Director of the Foundation for the Sacred Stream.

Snacks and beverages will be served.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Special Autumn Promotion

Immune Boost for the Whole Family

To celebrate my new office, I am making a special offer to new & existing patients:

  •     one FREE consultation & acupuncture treatment focusing on immune-building for the cold season (valued at $60)
  •     for infants and children under 9, one FREE immune-boosting shonishin treatment (15-minute Japanese-style meridian massage)

By appointment. Call 510-495-5752 or email to schedule yours!

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Obstetrics and Pediatrics in Traditional Chinese Medicine

One of the pre-eminent teachers of TCM obstetrics and pediatrics in the United States has been Raven Lang, OMD. She brings to her students over 40 years of experience as a direct entry midwife in rural Canada and Northern California. While working as a midwife, Dr. Lang attained doctorate level education in Traditional Chinese Medicine. She has run a busy TCM clinic in Santa Cruz for many years, treating birthing mothers and their families.

Studying with Dr. Lang was one of my favorite parts of my Chinese medicine training. It has prepared me to support women through the profound process of pregnancy, birth, postpartum and early motherhood, and to treat problems that arise safely and effectively, using acupuncture, herbs and nutrition, in collaboration with the family's midwife or obstetrician. This year I was delighted to experience an additional course with Dr. Lang entitled The Art and Science of Obstetrics in Traditional Chinese Medicine. I am looking forward to sharing what I have learned with you and your family.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

24 Ways to Pack a Nutrient Dense School Lunch

Tips on how to maintain healthy family eating practices despite busy back-to-school schedules. from Emily Bartlett, L.Ac., a pediatric acupuncturist in L.A.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Autumn: symbols and meanings

This article discusses the spiritual and symbolic meanings of Autumn in relation to Chinese medical philosophy. The next article, as the weather grows colder, will focus on common illnesses of Autumn, home remedies and health practices for the season.

Autumn: Yin Overcomes Yang
The gigantic squash plant that took over one of my garden boxes has finally stopped producing enormous green squashes. One of my tasks this weekend will be to cut back the squash plant & turn the remains into the soil.
Today, September 23rd, marks autumn equinox. Tonight's darkness will equal the length of the day, and the nights will continue to grow longer until winter solstice, the longest night, on December 21st.
Even while the fruit & vegetable harvest continues (my tomato and pepper plants are still producing), our summer food plants have stopped their exuberant growth of spring & summer and are drawing energy back to the roots.
So, autumn is a time when the energy of our environment pulls inward and down, when yin overcomes yang. It is a time of gathering in the harvest and storing the excess for the winter ahead.
In the sense that our lives reflect the patterns of our environment, autumn is a time when our energies might be directed more toward home and family. The routine of school & study re-begins for some of us. It's a time to wrap up and clear away projects begun in spring and worked on over the summer, “to begin to edit and then store what has been accomplished.” We might turn to activities like contemplation, reading, writing and nurturing family in preparation for the winter months ahead.

Autumn in Chinese Medical Theory: Metal-Lung Time
Traditional Chinese Medicine is built on an intricate system of correspondences. There are considered to be five seasons in the Chinese calendar: Spring, Summer, an extra one called Late Summer, Autumn and Winter. Each of these seasons corresponds to a long list of qualities and aspects which takes us deeper into the contemplation of that season.
Here is a list of correspondences for Autumn:
Autumn's direction is West.
Its element is Metal.
Its color is White.
Autumn's emotion is grief.
Its sound is weeping.
Its taste is pungent or spicy.
In relation to the human body, Autumn corresponds to the lung and large intestine organs, to the nose as a sensory orifice. It also corresponds to the skin and to body hair. Of the body's various fluids, autumn corresponds to mucous.
Now, what does this all mean? And why does it matter?
When I started studying Chinese medicine, this all seemed weird. But as I reflect on the correspondences with each passing season, I begin to draw out themes which help me to understand the human body, to care for myself and my family, and to be more at peace with the constant change that is fundamental to everything.

Autumn as a Time of Endings:
Living according to the Gregorian calendar, we're used to thinking of December 31, the depth of winter darkness, as the time of endings & beginnings. Or maybe we think of September back-to-school time as the start of the new year.
Autumn equinox was a time of ending in many traditional calendars. The ancient Chinese agricultural calendar once considered Autumn to be the end of the year. The festival marking the end of the year was celebrated with chrysanthemums—probably accounting for the association of the color white with autumn.
In Indigenous European and New World traditions, festivals like Samhain and Dia de los Muertos marked the end of a year and beginning of a new year. (The latter happens also to have chrysanthemums/marigolds as symbols.) They also evoke the theme of death, reflecting the dying back of the agricultural bounty at this time of the year. Along that line, Rosh Hoshanah/Yom Kippur in Judaism are festivals of atonement, renewal and new year.
So, Autumn's theme one of endings, death and new beginnings.
Autumn corresponds with West, which is the direction sunset and the end of the day.
And autumn corresponds to white, which in many cultures is associated with death and grieving, or at the other end of the spectrum, with the purity of birth and renewal.
Autumn has something to teach us about grief, which is the emotion related to autumn in Chinese philosophy. Grief is associated with endings and loss. Weeping is the sound associated with autumn, and weeping is an outlet for grief. In Chinese medicine, we say that too much grief and weeping can damage the lung and the intestines. So, Autumn is a time to honor feelings of grief we might experience. But it is also a time to recognize endings and to let go and resolve grief so that it does not consume us. We might consider the ways in which endings are also new beginnings, as birth and death are two sides of the same coin.
What is the significance of Metal? Metal is perhaps hard for us westerners to wrap our minds around, especially those of us who are more familiar with a four-element system of Earth, Air, Fire and Water.
I think of Metal in terms of structure, boundaries, and demarcation. Metal can also be associated with clarity. Think of a chrystal gem. Or separtion. Think of a metal blade. Metal can be likened to the Air element in western metaphysics, representing writing, speaking, mental clarity or clarity of communications.
To bring all of this around to Chinese medicine and the human body, let's look at all the parts of the body associated with Autumn: lung, large intestine, skin, body hair, nose, mucous. All relate to these themes of boundary, demarcation, ending and separation from that which is not us or that which is not useful to us.
The lung is responsible for breathing. In Chinese medicine, particularly associated with exhalation--ridding the body of CO2 waste and airborne pathogens. The large intestine, obviously, rids the body of food waste. Skin, body hair and mucous, as components of the protective system, demarcate what is us and what is not us and help the body remove that which is harmful and not useful.
How do we summarize all of this?
In many ways, this beautiful time of year is a time of ending, a time of grief and loss of the abundance of summer. To maintain health and balance, we may grieve and weep appropriately, but we also need to invoke the boundary aspect of the metal season. With clarity we let go of what no longer serves us. We pull back from the exuberance of summer. We draw our focus inward and garner our reserves for winter. In these ways, we can move forward in health through the end of one cycle into the beginning of the next.

Here is a short anecdote about grief in my life and the life of my community this autumn.
Shortly after I wrote the above "Autumn: symbols and meanings" essay, I was wondering to myself, "What forms is grief taking for me this year? Am I dealing with grief adequately? And how would I really, usefully help to guide my patients through periods of profound grief?" The following set of experiences came to me, and I thought I'd share them.
One September morning this year, my daughter and I were visiting a local community garden where we frequently spend time volunteering on Fridays. The community garden is run by a local non-profit, Berkeley Youth Alternatives, and offers opportunities for low-income and marginalized youth to learn and earn income by working in the garden. Unfortunately, this year, BYA has been struggling financially and has determined that it will no longer be able to fund the position of its wonderful garden staffperson after October, 2011. All of the people who love the garden program are grieving and hoping to find a meaningful way for the program to be reborn.
On a personal level, my grief was encapsulated in a single moment where I watched my daughter running with ease down the garden pathway. The garden staffperson commented to me about how quickly she had grown so big. It was true. I remembered spending lovely summer mornings in this garden the previous year, just after Eva had learned to walk. She was still so small and clumsy then that I'd have to lift her over the grasses and furrows or she'd fall down among the rows of plants. The sad end of this chapter in the community garden history and the lightening speed of my daughter's maturation hit me like a rock that day. 
Since then, I've been trying to honor grief around these things, along with trying to see possibilities for new beginnings. That includes talking with other garden volunteers about our dreams for a new community program to arise from the garden. It also includes turning my focus from grieving the loss of my precious little baby to savoring and taking pride in all the ways that my daughter is growing into a bright, wonderful and spirited "big girl." Finally, I'm learning to appreciate that her growing independence means that I can begin to focus my helping more people as a practitioner of traditional Chinese medicine.
Resources for the article:
Elson M. Haas, M.D., Staying Healthy with the Seasons.
Penelope Ody. The Chinese Herbal Cookbook: Healing Foods from East and West.
Liu Ming. Santidao: The Way of the Three Treasures. Oakland: Da Yuan Circle, 2008.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Reflections on the Harvest Season

A central theme in Chinese Medicine is the idea that our health, the ease with which we live, relates to the degree that our lives are harmonious with our environment. In fact, Chinese Medicine developed largely out of thousands of years of detailed observations of seasonal and climatic patterns, as well as animal and human social responses to those patterns.
We are in the midst of harvest season in the Bay Area. I've been doing a bit of gardening this year and am astounded, at this time, by the bounty dripping off the stalk and the vine. That's not to mention what's available at the farmers' markets and on discount at Berkeley Bowl. It's almost ridiculous how many juicy melons, peaches, grapes, squash and tomatoes can make their way into your kitchen at this time of year.
A teacher of mine makes the point that most of this produce is extremely perishable. Think of those peaches and tomatoes. We have two options: enjoy it right now, or preserve it in a form that will last into the winter months.
This points to a fundamental duality of this time of year: Harvest means celebration, but it is also a time to begin preparing for winter.
The Bay Area weather in September always highlights this duality. We revel in the hot late summer days, but we notice that those days are getting shorter and the nights colder.
I invite you to pause & reflect:
Do these themes resonate in your life?
What are you harvesting?
Is there celebration?
What is bountiful in your life?
In what ways can you relax and enjoy that bounty?
Another twist on the theme of celebration and abundance is the idea that more information might be available to us at this time of year.
My (Chinese-Indonesian) martial arts lineage, PGB White Crane Silat, celebrates the harvest moon festival every year during this month by honoring the teachers and students who came before us. One special feature of this ritual is that we may ask our teachers questions that would not be appropriate at any other time of the year. One of my martial arts brothers points out that this moment of generosity has to do, traditionally speaking, with the abundance of the harvest allowing us to relax just a bit more at this time.
Along that line, later in the season we have, in western traditional cultures, celebrations like Samhain and Dia de los Muertos. During these festivals, we say that the veil between the human and spirit worlds thins, allowing us to access more information than is usual during the rest of the year.
So we might reflect:
Is there new knowledge available at this time? New intuition or insights we might access through prayer or meditation?
What about insights gained through the very act of celebrating abundance?
This might not be a time to act on new knowledge, since we're supposed to be resting, celebrating and beginning to think of winter. But we can be aware. Perhaps we relax or seek quiet time that lets us notice new ideas or intuitions. Perhaps we gather with friends or family in celebration and notice how that changes us. These new ideas could become seeds that germinate in those dark winter months...
…. which leads me to address the other side of the harvest dichotomy:
In what ways are you beginning to prepare for winter?
What do you do to prepare for a time of greater cold and darkness? for what might be a time of less energy? More quiet? More inwardness?
I'll conclude with a little health advice :)
Honor the shorter days. Eat more earlier in the day and eat smaller meals in the evening.
Eating a light dinner before 7pm as your final meal of the day with help your digestion and assimilation of nutrients and build your immunity.
If possible, start taking short naps or at least close your eyes and rest for a moment in the early afternoons. This will help you build your energy reserves for winter.
Foodies: by all means, enjoy those tomatoes, melons, peaches & berries while they last!
Those juicy vegetables can help clear the body of heat or inflammation generated from stress or from those hot autumn days.
As the weather cools, we say in Chinese Medicine that our body fluids begin to consolidate. You might experience more phlegm accumulation or allergies. This is normal. Eating moist, juicy vegetables (late summer squash, bok choy, etc.) and broths with a little bit of fresh ginger at this time of year can help keep those fluids circulating in a healthy way. Later in the fall, we can think of increasing our intake of more dense, consolidated nutrients: more beans, rice, drier vegetables, root vegetables. But, for now, think juicy.
Finally, at this time of year, your acupuncturist can help by gently clearing “summer heat” and beginning to support your immune system for those winter months ahead!
Celebrate the harvest!
Thank you to teacher Liu Ming (, PGB White Crane Silat (, and Chris Andersen for your wisdom, traditions, and reflections which provided the content of this article.