Behind The Scenes

“Goodness is about character – integrity, honesty, kindness, generosity, moral courage, and the like. More than anything else, it is about how we treat other people.” Dennis Prager

I’ve been running a sustainable acupuncture and wellness practice for almost 23 months now! To even type the word “sustainable” is a milestone that I thought would take years to reach. For that, I am grateful for this community that supports me and trusts me with their unique life stories. I am reminded daily that I am doing what I am meant to be doing, connecting with the people that I’m meant to connect with, all the while keeping an open mind to where all of this may lead to in the future.

Keeping all the warm fuzzies in mind, it’s also important for me to take into account that it takes A LOT of time, patience, and energy. It takes behind the scenes work involving research, admin, continuing education, taxes, networking, marketing, supply orders, and patient follow-ups (to name a few). Not to mention the time I commit towards self-care in order to stay balanced while wearing the variety of hats as a business owner. I strive to thrive for many years, so these things are all important to me.

It’s been a graceful learning curve, and I’ve been fortunate to have a number of colleagues to share the bittersweet growing pains of being equal parts small business owner and health care practitioner. Having this limited experience on the other side of the spectrum, I’ve gained a lot of respect for past and present health care professionals who go above and beyond for their patients and practice. I now understand why they were always so grateful when I had to cancel and it was well within their specific cancelation policy. I see how payment is an energetic exchange and is just as important in the healing process as anything else in the patient-practitioner relationship. I experience the joy… yes, JOY!…in hearing my patients advocate for themselves: if something isn’t working in their life they say it unapologetically and I am thrilled to be let in on what’s really beneath the symptoms and pains. I feel the defeat when I hear “I googled it so I’m doing xyz…” and hope the sources were accurate, because somehow there’s a part in all of us, no matter how small, that recognizes if Google comes up with it, there has to be some validity behind it. I feel the overwhelming sense of wanting to keep learning more, more, more, but also knowing I’m not equipped to do it all. I smile when I’m able to help build and grow my colleague’s professions through referrals and word of mouth. Have I mentioned that community is where it’s at? 😉

I’ll leave by sharing what inspired this reflection in the first place. It has nothing to do with Chinese medicine or business, but in my little world of “what does it all mean?”, this *something* got the reflection wheels turning: I was playing the piano the other day– actually, sight reading a waltz in one of my old sonata books. As I played, I felt this rush of heat and giddiness, better expressed as “WHOA this is crazy that I am looking at a piece of paper with dots on lines and simultaneously able to coordinate my right and left hands to play a melody via their respective parts of the paper with dots on lines.” feeling. What?!!! It was the feeling of embodiment, it was the feeling of all of the parts fitting to create the whole. It was the perfect metaphor for how I feel when I think of all the parts (and all of the hats worn) that have contributed to this grand waltz of a practice I’m building. :)

Back to the start.

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This blog has been up for 5 years now… !!!  It started as a personal WordPress site to connect with friends and family about my life’s journey and to my surprise it grew to an audience of over 5,000 readers within months! Wow! I decided to switch over to this .org domain a little over 2 years ago to include more guest posts from health and wellness professionals. This, in turn, would reach an even wider audience. Well, my friends, after some much needed deliberation, I’ve decided it’s time to go back to the start. I feel that I have built up a level of resistance to posting regular updates the past couple of years, not because I didn’t have anything to share, but because I had TOO much to share. I ended up receiving hundreds of emails from interested guest bloggers from around the world. Reading their stories and what they wanted to share was inspiring, impressive and such an honor to read, but I quickly realized it was too much of an endeavor to take on as a “side project” on my own. In the meantime, popular sites like Mind, Body, Green and Elephant Journal grew with a similar mission– with a staff of many. Something that is not in the cards for me right now, especially as I manage a full-time acupuncture and wellness practice.

What does going back to the start mean? It means just me. It means on occasion when I meet someone with a special something, I’ll ask if they’d do me the honor to write their story so I can share it with all of you, who I care about deeply. It means more creative license to be all over the map instead of within a “professional” parameter. If you’ve read my past few blog posts, you’ll know that I’m striving to bridge the gap between my professional life and personal life, practicing vulnerability, and taking more risks. I’m wanting to connect on a deeper level that surpasses preaching about the “How-To’s” in life. 

I understand this will lead to some of you unsubscribing to my updates. But before you go, please know I am grateful for your support and for every time you chose to read these posts the past few years. For those that stay with me, I thank you as well. You’ll see some gradual changes around the website, and as always I welcome your feedback. :) Here’s to the next chapter…!! 

My vulnerability is showing…

…and it looks good!

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I think a lot. The way my mind works fascinates and entertains me enough that I don’t get bored easily, although I can easily tire from my train of thought at times. I think about my life. I think about where I came from and where I’m going. I think about what I’ve overcome to get to where I am. I think about and make up random scenarios that make me giggle, and I think about and make up random scenarios that bring up fears. I think about all of these things and more.

And then, somewhere down the road of my ever-evolving thought process, I started thinking more about my external world, specifically how I portray my internal world to my external world. I realized how much I’ve taken on for myself to process versus opening up and saying my truth to those around me. I realized I played the role of feeling much safer in pleasing others and not ruffling feathers, while silently suffering internal anxieties and worries. I realized how exhausting this was for my past self. I realized that is was time to unravel and transform this tendency. 

Throughout the past year, this has been a major focus of mine. After settling into my life in Chapel Hill and (mostly) recovering from the very real PTSD that lingered from my time as a grad student, I can happily say that all my needs of home, food, friends, and career are feeling rooted and nurtured. This has created space for me to let go of the fight or flight mode a bit more and dive deeper into the parts of my psyche that are fearful of being vulnerable.

I was inspired by conversations among friends and family, articles and blog posts, books like Brené Brown’s, Daring Greatly, and personal anecdotes from my amazing and brave patients. All of these encounters helped put the feelings I was trying to acknowledge into tangible thoughts; I’ve built up a wall to “stay strong” when all along practicing vulnerability has made me feel stronger than ever. 

How will I continue to nurture this in the new year? With compassion (and oftentimes a shaky voice) I’ll keep communicating how I really feel, I’ll honor my energy and not give it away to those that drain it. I won’t deny my emotion in order to avoid confrontation. I’ll continue to meet the needs of those I love while making sure my needs are being heard and met as well. I will continue to cultivate balance, reciprocity, and deeper connection and understanding in my relationships. I’ll make time to breathe, laugh, sing, and play with abandon. I’ll step out of my sometimes too comfortable shadow and follow my curiosity, away from the path of fear. I’ll tap into my courage. I’ll fall down and get back up. I’ll continue to show up for myself and be seen, because once we’re seen, our greatest attributes, ideas, creativities, and accomplishments are one step closer to seeing the light. 

Care to join me? :)

 

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32 Lessons I’ve Learned (and Mostly Relearned) as a 32 Year Old.

32-Facts-That-Show-How-Men-Are-Being-Systematically-Emasculated-In-America-Today-300x205“You don’t stop laughing when you grow old, you grow old when you stop laughing.” ― George Bernard Shaw

Although in my mind I still tend to feel like (and laugh at the same things as) a kid, I’ll be turning 33 tomorrow, May 26th! Wow. It’s really true: age is just a number, and you’re only as old as you feel. Every year around this time, I enjoy taking a moment to myself to reflect on the year that just passed, oftentimes like a blink of an eye. Days, weeks, and months can go by so quickly! Knowing the way that I’ve chosen to participate in the world, it’s important to take these pauses and check in where I’m at, and where I might be going. This year, while highlighting the growth and transformation I’ve experienced, I’ve compiled a list of 32 lessons I’ve learned and relearned this past year as a 32 year old.  If nothing else, I’ll always be able to look back on this to remember the thoughts, big and small, that have brought me to be the person I am today.

 

1. Upgrading to a Kindle has made life so sweet and easy. I love books and I’ll always have an affinity for them, but when I’m traveling, it’s so much more convenient to have a handful of books uploaded on a tiny, light-weight device. My shoulders are much happier for not having to lug around excess weight in books anymore. 

2. Having a daily yoga practice is possible. It’s not always an hour or longer, but putting in at least 15 minutes a day can move some profound mind-body mountains. 

3. Owning and running a small business has been an emotional roller coaster and has been full of some of the most valuable lessons towards self cultivation. I’m absolutely floored that I’m actually living my dream, and while living it, I continue to dream even bigger. 

4. It’s never too late to start learning a new language. Hablo español? Si, hablo un poco de español! 

5. Mercury retrograde is real. Enough said. When you hear that it’s currently happening, be gentle with all things communication, technology, transportation, and contractual. Actually, even when Mercury is not retrograde, be gentle. 

6. Give me a bowl of air-popped popcorn with coconut oil, nutritional yeast, sea salt, and dill, and I will become giddy with glee.

7. Dancing will always be one of my most favorite things to do. Being able to go out and enjoy the dances around here? Working on staying awake past 9pm…

8. There’s nothing wrong with a 9pm bedtime.

9. It is possible to lower cholesterol! Diet, exercise, and de-stressing for the win! I do realize this is not the case for all people, but paying closer attention to your diet, exercise and de-stressing routines will definitely create a positive ripple effect on your health.

10. Acupuncture works. More times than not I find myself shaking my head in disbelief how this medicine is so unbelievably wise.

11. Friends certainly come and go through the seasons of our lives.

12. Moving to a new place can be scary, especially after spending years making friends and building community elsewhere. In the past year, I’ve made a great effort to get to know my surroundings, and it came back to me tenfold: Becoming involved with a yoga teacher training and reaching out to any and all interesting people I meet along the way has built the sweetest community here in Chapel Hill.

FullSizeRender13. Get the hammock. Don’t spend months or years talking about getting the hammock. Get it. Add the bowl of popcorn from above. Die happy.

14. Free does not necessarily mean better. 

15. Working as a team is invigorating. I’ve been blessed to meet some incredible health practitioners around here, and am in the midst of collaborating big ideas with one… stay tuned!  

16. Animals need our lovingkindness more than ever. Save the elephants, save the turtles, please save them all.

17. Slow down, it’ll get done.

18. I can run more than 3 miles at a time. In fact, I ran 7 the other day! Mind over matter.

19. It is SO worth the time and money to get away for a few days and shake things up from the routine, especially when it’s a visit to loved ones that are just too darn far away. I’m grateful to be at that point in life where I truly value experiences and memories far more than the “things” that can easily be replaced. (If you are ready to de-clutter your life, read this.)

20. My body will continue to change through the years, and that’s just part of the graceful aging process. The only thing I can do is to keep coming back to embracing what I have now and continue to strive to feel the healthiest and most energized that I possibly can. 

21. Laughter is the best medicine. 

22. Being engaged to my sweetheart has changed nothing and everything all at the same time. It’s a sweet time for us to figure out how we want to make this completely our own, no deadlines, no pressure, just a love-filled celebration. If I could do anything differently, I’d trust the process more than I did leading up to it. 

23. Deciding to have children will never come naturally to me as a “yes, it’s happening!” or a “no, it’s not for me.” However, choosing to be with the person who could someday create those children with me has been the most natural “yes!” I could think of. 

24. Maintaining a healthy relationship takes work each and every day. A lot of the time it’s so much fun! I mean, what’s better than living with your best friend, having countless inside jokes, and trying to figure out how to be “adults” together? Yay for that! However, it’s not always that easy, and we are sometimes challenged to look in the mirror and face the things we try so hard not to see within ourselves. I think that could be the most beautiful part of a relationship’s metamorphosis: once the guards are down, the transformation begins, and you’re both better people for having worked on it. 

25. Public libraries are the bees knees. So many resources, so much information. How lucky are we?

26. Social media will continue to be a blessing and an annoyance. Always proceed with caution, and treat everyone kindly.

27. Quitting a ridiculous coffee habit is very possible, and on the days I decide to  make or treat myself to a coffee, I get as giddy as I am with a bowl of homemade popcorn. It’s a win-win. I drink Tulsi India Breakfast tea now. It has a little caffeine mixed with the calming effects of tulsi (holy basil). It’s really an excellent way to start my mornings. 

28. Connecting with all things yin/feminine softens the hardness that I tend to create when I’m thrown into the “go, go, go” or yang/masculine aspect of our culture. If we are over-consuming our yin (whether due to over-activity, or because it was deficient to begin with), we begin to lose our endurance and reserves. We become over-reactive and hypersensitive. Whatever your gender, it’s essential for all of us to connect with our yin/feminine side. Balance is key and we can only ignore this part of ourselves for so long before symptoms of imbalance start to physically and emotionally manifest.

29. Taking chances, when aligned with that gut instinct and intuition, will always be worth it. I’d rather fail trying than not doing at all.

30. I’m grateful for Mama Nature. She guides me in understanding how the universe works which in turn guides me in understanding how we, as humans, work. 

31. I have a lot to offer! I never thought I’d be teaching yoga classes and workshops, but I am, and I love it. I believe EVERYONE has something to offer, and finding your voice is part of that unnerving yet exciting journey that will lead you to where you belong. I dare you to step outside your comfort zone and try it. 

32. It’s impossible to condense a year’s worth of learning into a list of 32, but to keep it practical and fun, I chose the number 32 since all of this was experienced, manifested, and cultivated while I was 32. Clever, huh? 😉 Here’s to my 33rd year, another revolution around the sun, and hopefully countless more lessons that will continue to expand my horizons and challenge me to do the things my heart is trying to lead me to do. :)

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Happy, little 2-year old me in the Cayman Islands.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

some thoughts on meditation.

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If you’ve been following my blog posts over the years, you’ll notice that I bring up meditation as a form of healing…a lot. I’ve provided snippets of information here and there; little gems to remember when creating a meditation practice. I’ve talked about breathing as an essential tool to ground and be still. I’ve even given auxiliary information on how to enhance your practice with tools such as essential oils or flower essences. So, now, the big questions to address include: what exactly IS meditation? Is the mind supposed to be completely still? What if I don’t have an hour each day to spare for this practice…?

I’m here to guide you, calm your concerns, and let you know that if you are setting aside any time to practice stillness, you are doing it correctly. A meditation practice is not about a destination, it’s about what we do with the sensations that arise. It’s about connecting with a part of ourselves that tends to get ignored in our active life. It’s about seeking glimpses of clarity by allowing our thoughts and emotions (both positive and negative) to surface and see the light so we can work through and transform them, rather than ignore, repress, and repeat the cycle of emotions.

Meditation is a personal journey and there are so many different ways to practice. Key word:practice. Meditation is a practice in focusing our attention and being aware when it drifts. When practiced regularly, this will help our focus even when we are not in a meditative state. Five to ten minutes per day is all you need. If you have more time? That’s wonderful, too.

Meditation is not about being right or wrong. It’s about being. We know that the only thing constant is change, so you will notice that thoughts, moods, and attitudes will change as you implement a consistent practice of stillness. Some days it will be easier to quiet the mind, other days you might notice a plethora of thoughts arising- one after another. It is all part of the process of looking inward.

My experience will never be the same as your experience. Your experience will never be the same as any one else’s experience. The point I’m trying to make is, it’s worth a try. It’s worth connecting deeper with the inner workings of your mind and body for all the benefits that lead to a more balanced life. You do not need an hour per day and you do not need a special outfit, spirituality, or teacher. These tools help guide people in their daily practice, if they work for you, amazing! Keeping an open mind to discover what works for you is part of the journey.

So a suggestion on where to start? If you love apps, a great one to check out is Headspace. This is meditation geared towards busy people like you and me. Former Buddhist monk, Andy Piddicombe, guides you through 10 minutes of simple meditation every day. You don’t have to do anything other than sit down, turn on the app, and let Andy’s soothing voice explain how to approach meditation. Another suggestion: Deepak Chopra has 21-day meditation series which I’ve also found supportive with a busy schedule. As always, feel free to connect with me for more recommendations. Above all else, I hope you can now relax and know you are exactly where you need to be, and when you consciously choose to be, you’re deciding to continue on your journey to cultivate the best version of yourself.

patience, patient.

“Have patience with all things, but chiefly have patience with yourself. Do not lose courage in considering your own imperfections but instantly set about remedying them – every day begin the task anew.” ~Saint Francis de Sales

 

Being present with each of my patients is essential in order to honor who they are and what they are presenting on any given day. My mission is to personalize each session according to everyone’s unique needs. I also make a point to never take anyone for granted, especially when it comes to my thinking about what their expectations or thoughts might be surrounding each treatment.

I wrote a similar post to this one about 2 years ago, and I thought it might be fruitful to re-post and share these thoughts on realistic expectations of a treatment plan. I share this in order to encourage you to make your experience as a current or future Chinese medicine patient as wonderful and enjoyable as possible.  Please feel free to share your thoughts, ideas, and experiences!

  • Be patient. Rome was not built in a day and your body did not develop those aches and pains over night. Deep transformation and healing requires a realistic expectation that may take weeks or months to target. Unfortunately we are in a “quick fix” society, so it is often hard to change this mindset. With the right practitioner, each treatment will provide a space of relaxation and forward movement. With time and patience, your body will  readjust, cleanse, heal and feel more and more balanced. The key word is time. Perhaps this is why we are called patients; because we should be practicing patience. :)

 

  • If one practitioner doesn’t resonate with you, it does not mean the entire medicine doesn’t resonate with you.  We all have specific needs in life and this is what makes diversity so beautiful. Keep in mind that Chinese medicine practitioners are not one and all the same. We have many different styles and specialties of practicing. Doing your research and asking the appropriate people in your community for a good referral is a great first step (I am always available to help!). If you are unsatisfied for whatever reason after your treatment, see if you can find someone else.  As in any relationship, we have to try things in order to know what is really best for us.
  •  Speak up! If you are uncomfortable in any way,  have any questions or concerns, or have positive feedback, say something! Do you think the treatment room is too cold or too warm? Do you like the music and ambiance? Or, does the needle in your leg feel funny? Whatever might be on your mind, I encourage you to speak up and let your practitioner know. This will only improve the quality of your experiences and help facilitate your body’s relaxation response for deeper healing. It is empowering to speak up for yourself. This time is all for you, make every moment worthwhile.
  • You are in charge. What this means is that it’s up to you to take care of yourself in between treatments. The road to health involves medical supervision, but most important, involves a lifestyle change. With a good practitioner, you will be sent home with dietary modifications, exercises, and/or suggestions on mental-emotional support. You are paying for this advice, and it is solely for your benefit. If you have questions, ask. If you need clarification or more recommendations, say so. If something comes up, you can get in touch with your practitioner in between visits.  However, your practitioner is not going to be there by your side each day to see what you are doing, so you need to make a commitment to do your work and show up for yourself each day. Some things come easier than others, and the most important thing in this process is to stay completely open and honest with yourself and your practitioner in order to continue receiving the support you need. You have a safe, judgement-free, healing space provided to serve and work with YOU. Make the best of it, and over time you might just see some incredible transformations. :)

Want to learn more about what I do? Check out my practice website: The Balance Point Acupuncture & Wellness

healthy fall.

I sent the post below via e-mail several weeks ago, and I felt it necessary to repost here for several reasons. One being, the very next day after writing it, I noticed the temperatures dropped significantly here in North Carolina. After leaving my house, I somehow convinced myself that I would be OK with the 3/4 length sleeved shirt I was wearing (and no scarf!!) since I was going to be either inside a building or car for the majority of the day. Retrospective thought: Oh, how the mind will think of anything to justify what we already know is a less than good idea! The several minutes I was outside, I felt the chilly air on the back of my neck and I just knew it was the point of no return, the onset of something. Sure enough, over the next few days my body started to feel fatigued and lethargic, and I developed the all- too- common Fall season cold. Does this sound familiar? Read on for some self-care tips on staying healthy this season from a Chinese medical perspective. 
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Now that fall is in the air, temperatures are shifting and the days are getting shorter. Chinese medicine has a lot to say about how we are influenced by natural cycles, and what we can do to prevent our bodies from being out of balance with these cycles. This time of the year is associated with the element/energy of Metal and the organ systems of Lung and Large Intestine. Therefore, now is a good time to focus on strengthening our respiratory and digestive systems. Here are some useful tips on how to do this for optimal health in the upcoming season:
 
  • Regular Acupuncture: Seasonal changes can be a time of turmoil as an individual’s qi (energy) might be out of harmony with the frequency of the season. Fall is the perfect time to take preventative action. Ward off illness and changes in mood with acupuncture treatments this autumn and start the school year, or just the cooler weather in general, with a balanced body, mind and spirit. Consistent acupuncture treatments assist in relieving stress, help you get sounder sleep and re-balance your energy. It can help boost your immune function and settle the mind.
  • Sleep: Notice that nature is slowing down, contracting, and preparing to rest so it is natural for us to sleep a little longer than in the summer months. Focus on relaxation in the evening hours. Autumn is associated with late afternoon and evening time, and getting ready for the still, deep energy of the winter.
  • Eat warming root vegetables, whole grains and hearty foods like soups, stews, and broths. Incorporating seasonal foods in your diet helps to connect the energetics of the season with the nourishment of your body.  These foods will also work well to flush out and protect the intestines. When it comes to flavors, think pungent. Pungent and slightly spicy foods have a powerful up and out direction in the body, and this traditionally helps stimulate the lungs and break up any excess mucus. Try adding onions, ginger, garlic, leeks, radishes and turnips to your meals. Cayenne, ginger and curry also promote good digestion and elimination.
  • Protect your lungs by drinking plenty of fluids, doing a daily sinus rinse and wearing a scarf. The back of our neck is a particularly vulnerable place where cold and wind can invade easily and compromise our immune system, so cover up! 
  • Regular Exercise. Movement is essential year-round. Even with the fall and winter chill you want to maintain your exercise regimen. It will help reduce the seasonal depression that tends to crop up as the days become shorter, allow you to stay at a healthy body weight, improve your health, and let energy flow unimpeded. Try at least 30 minutes of cardio on most days of the week and be sure to include strength training.
  • Always go back to the breath. Add a deep breathing and meditation practice to your daily routine by expanding your chest, opening your lungs, and breathing in deep to honor and nourish your body! In fall, we tend to be more introspective and it’s time to let go of emotions that no longer serve us. Take advantage of this opportunity by meditating to keep calm and focused. Strengthen your lung qi by setting aside time each day for breathing exercises. Take a yoga class or try Qigong to quiet the mind. Mindful breath work has so many benefits like eliminating toxins, releasing tension and pain, bringing a sense of clarity, and improving your quality of sleep.
 
Wishing you a healthy and peaceful season!

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Hello friends,

After a 6 month hiatus, my writer’s cap is back on and I’m excited to start posting here more regularly.

So, why 6 long months without an update, you ask? Well, life has been full of changes, transitions, and new beginnings that have required most of my attention and energy. I’ve relocated to Chapel Hill, NC and have since opened a practice, The Balance Point Acupuncture & Wellness, which has been an incredible experience on so many levels. I feel humbled, honored, excited, and full of so much gratitude to finally be at this point in my career to be able to put the knowledge and skills I’ve acquired to action through treatments, workshops, volunteering, and, once again, writing.

I’ve been building a great community here and keeping really busy embracing the Carolina life. In March, I started a year-long yoga teacher training which has done nothing but reaffirm (over and over again) all of the efforts I’ve put into building this journey for myself. So, overall, with its ups and downs, life has been good.

What to expect from here on out: A little less on the “How-To’s” and a little more vulnerability and depth around the health and wellness issues that are prevalent in our day to day lives. Most of my writing inspiration comes from personal experience, and I feel that’s the best place to stay in order to really connect with all of you.

Thank you for all of your support, from near and far. I am forever grateful to have this space to share the inner workings of my mind.

Always,
Colleen :)

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