Peaceful Mountain Acupuncture

A weekly blog about Acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine.

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Location: Rio Rancho, New Mexico, United States

This blog is going to be, primarily a venue for me to express my thoughts about Life and the complexities of the physical plane. My story is simple, I am an easy going individual and a moderate recluse. I am comfortable walking or sitting, talking or being silent. I am always seeking new friends and acquaintenances. I tend to look deeply and question myself about the lesson behind the experience. If you like what you read, please leave me a note, if you have a blog please leave me a link so I can read your writing as well. Thanks

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Harnessing the POWER of the INTELLIGENCE of the COMMUNITY

One of the things I have been trying to develop is a way to have an intelligent, rational discussion about health care in our society. I do not feel as the current national discussion is intelligent, rational or respectful. How can we expect to change this broken system if we are using broken thinking?

I want to start by addressing the inherent, yet hidden power of the innate intelligence of community. To do this I will relate a quick story from The Wisdom of Crowds by James Suroweicki. He opens his book with a story about the British anthropologist Francis Galton who was trying to prove how un-intelligent crowds were. What Galton learned from this experiment flew directly in the face of what he had spent his lifetime trying to prove. To make a long story shorter, in 1906 Galton was at a fair and one of the competitions was to guess how much a cow would weigh after it was butchered and dressed. The competitors included butchers, farmers and average citizens. What Galton did that is of interest to me was to take the actual guesses by all the competitors and to find the average mean weight from that, then to compare that to the actual weight. The averaged guessed weight was 1,197 pounds, only one pound off from the actual weight of 1,198 pounds!

What this shows, if we read between the lines, is that the intelligence of ALL OF US is greater than the intelligence of any ONE of us.

This applies to my desire to have a discussion about health care because I am convinced that if we could actually generate a format where we could all put in our thoughts of how to create, monitor and fund a working health care system it would have the intelligence of our society; not just the biased intelligence of the special interest groups.

To create a format like this would require several things that I am aware of right off.

First of all in order to participate I feel one would have to agree to not attack any one else’s ideas or person. It does not matter about the quality of their idea, their idea will sink or swim on its own merit if we let it. But the idea one wants to attack may spark someone else to have an idea that sparks someone else to have a genuinely good idea. If we stop that process by attacking the idea or the person we ALL loose.

Secondly I feel we would need to agree that the system we have is broken.

My thinking is that if we can address health care and start to develop healthier individuals within the community it will spread out and these individuals will develop a healthier community in all areas; the environment, the economy, our schools and homes.

I also feel that if we can create this format in a functional manner we could use this model to discuss the environment and reap incredible rewards from that, as well as practical solutions to a most pressing issue. We could also then turn our focus to the Military-Industrial Complex.

My thinking has been very strongly influenced by reading (and now re-reading immediately after finishing it the first time) “Spontaneous Evolution” by Bruce Lipton Ph.D. and Steve Bhaerman. This book is profound and I cannot find words to describe how enthusiastically I recommend it to everyone.


Michael Clifford

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

$147B in costs, with no end in sight

Last night it was reported on the national news that our country spends 147,000,000,000 every year in health care related costs due to obesity. This is sad, for many reasons. For each of the individuals that are obese and the impact on their lives, their health, happiness and longevity it is a condition that affects everything they choose to do, or are limited from doing.

It also has an enormous impact on our health care system. This is something that needs to be addressed in meaningful ways. Not in blaming or shaming; but in meaningful educational supportive ways that help the individuals learn ways to minimize and even prevent this condition.

I know that on one level I do NOT understand this condition any more than I understand what a woman experiences with her menses. But in the same way that a doctor would not have to have had a brain tumor to be able to operate on one I do have some knowledge about how to effectively treat this condition.

Some of my thoughts my surprise you.

Of course the primary focus has to be eating good quality food. The nutritional content of our food supply is LOWER THAN IT WAS 30+ YEARS AGO. There are many reasons for this but overuse of the land and continual fertilization with chemicals are, in my opinion, the primary factors.

The second issue would have to be quantity. Many, many of us eat too much at one time and we wait too long between meals before we eat again. Our metabolism responds better to smaller, more frequent meals.

The third issue is amount of exercise. It is truly a mathematical solution: burn more calories than you ingest and you will loose weight. Yes I know there are metabolic conditions that interfere with this, but for the vast majority of the population that is not the situation.

Those are all simple, straightforward and well known methods to deal with obesity. The next one is more likely to surprise you.

Each of our bodies requires Iodine to interact with our thyroid, as most all of us know. What is not understood is that when we started processing wheat there was a chemical added that is nearly atomically identical to the iodine. This chemical, bromide, was added to allow the wheat flour to flow through the machines without clogging them up. Or at least that is what I believe it was added to do.

Regardless of why, the important fact is that bromide out-competes the iodine for the receptors. This means that the thyroid is getting bromide (because it is nearly identical to iodine) but it is unable to process the bromide. This means that the thyroid is not operating at full efficiency and the thyroid affects the metabolism of EVERY CELL IN YOUR BODY. This means that your body will be prone to carrying excess weight even if you are following a good diet and getting some exercise.

What can be done about this?

Well one solution in the short term is to avoid all brominated flours. But a deeper solution would require a conversation about why it is included in the foods we eat. This conversation should include a realization that it is not in the producing companies best long-term interest to produce foods that are not healthy for their customers over a long term.

But that would require being aware that there are consequences for every action and or inaction. Even if these consequences are slow to come to the awareness they will show themselves.

So spend some time thinking about this and the implications to your health. Then research some more and make well informed decisions about what you are eating.

Remember food is the most powerful medicine, or POISON you put into your body.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

New Web Site

Well it has been a long, long time since I have posted anything. My life has taken many turns over the last 2 years since I was actively posting on this site.
I have moved to Rio Rancho New Mexico and had a great job. After a year and a half of flying the company closed its doors. The time of unemployment has been hard. But I am still hanging in here.

I have not left the world of acupuncture, though at times it feels like I have.

Believe it or not I am in the process of writing a book about Oriental Medicine, to introduce it to the 'general public' in a fun, east-to-read format. Besides that anyone that has read my blogs knows I love to write!

I have also just set up a web page
If you have moment, check it out and tell me what you think of it, so far.

The crazed man searching for a job....

Saturday, February 16, 2008

A new Venue

Hello all,
I just created a new blog as I feel that the content of that post does not fit into my acupuncture writings.

I invite you to check it out. ""

Let me know


Saturday, January 26, 2008

What am I doing these days????

Hello all,
It has been quite a while since I posted anything. The few of you that read this may be wondering what ever happened and what I am doing.

I am living in Rio Rancho New Mexico. I am NOT doing any acupuncture, but am working in an entirely new field. I am learning to operate the computer system for a laser scanner and digital camera system that is in a fixed wing airplane (Cessna 207) and will be flying to various places in the U.S. acquiring the data used to make 3D topographical maps.

To say the least it is a completely new direction in my life. All in all it has been great! I am learning a lot and am very excited about this line of work. Though it does raise a few questions in my mind.

Like "what about the last decade you spent studying, practicing and teaching acupuncture?"

I do not really have any direct answers. For those of you that know me this will not be any surprise. I know I loved the work I did, and I had my challenges with it as well. The two major challenges were the financial roller-coaster I was on. WOW, that was I ride. I definitely like a steady paycheck... And the other issue for me was a combination of my perception of our health-care system and our societal perception of health and responsibility for our own health.

I was finding myself getting disillusioned in my work. I know that in my life I try to remove all illusion so to be 'disillusioned' is actually a good thing. Though it did come with consequences in my life, I accept that and am overall happy for the change.

I still believe quite intensely in acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine, but I did find that I need to be doing other things without the implication of being involved in others lives in the degree that I felt I had to in order to help my patients make better life choices.

All in all, I enjoyed my time as an acupuncturist, and I believe I helped some people some times. I know I learned a lot in the process.

I may continue this blog as a way to explore my thoughts about TCM and its place in our society. What do you think? Should I, or should I let that too go into the past? Let me know what you think.


Sunday, December 02, 2007

Trying something new

I am trying something new to get my voice into the fray. I have published an article on integrating the medical paradigms. I would appreciate it if you would follow the link and read it and send me your thoughts.


Saturday, November 17, 2007


Hello again,
It has been a very long time since I wrote anything for my Blog. But it has been an interesting and challenging time. As usual with my blog I will not go into my personal saga other than to say it has been eventful, to say the least.

About a month ago I saw an excellent documentary on the Cuban medical system. The movie is called "!Salud!" You can find a link to it above and at

I was moved by several parts of the movie and will try to express some of that to you now. I find it to "speak volumes" when a small and impoverished country such as Cuba can create, sustain and improve a medical system such as this. It is an accepted fact (when one steps aside from the political bias that surrounds US/Cuba relations) that Cuba has a medical system that is one of , if not THE best in the world.

When watching the movie I saw a thread that links their medical system to its effectiveness, this link was a historical part of Chinese medicine as well, though I am not sure it is as strong there now. The link I am referring to is having the doctors living in the community they serve where they can be accessed anytime. I also saw how the doctors and interns have a deep respect and concern for the patients they are treating.

This appreciation and respect comes from where these people came from, the Cuban medical schools offer full scholarships to impoverished minorities and most of their students tend to be from that social strata. The 'payment' for the six-year program is to return to serve in a medically under-served community for at least one year. By teaching minorities from the same socio-economic class they are comfortable living in the bario's or "projects" and tend not to feel that their patients are any different than they are. Compare that perspective to a US doctor that makes well over $150K per year and has well over $200K in debt from the student loans necessary to get through school. The doctor's in this documentary got into medicine because they truly care about their patients. While this is true, in degree, for many of our doctors because of the way oour health care system is operated at this time they cannot remain in that mindset for long. It does not pay, or in my opinion it becomes a matter of "profit over people."

Another very critical piece of their system is the in-depth intake the doctor/interns do so that they can develop a comprehensive perspective/appreciation of the entire family unit and see the stresses that family is dealing with and how they are choosing to deal with those stresses. Thia allows the doctors to be aware of the potential imbalances and help the family determine other ways of dealing with them if it is going to have a negative effect on their health. In turn that reduces the amount of health care the family needs and saves the government money overall. Lots of money. As you can well imagine a large part of every countries, or every individuals health care expenses are incured in treating illnesses that could have been avoided with much much more gentle measures if they had been assesed sooner.

As I have written about before I truly believe that our country is facing a critical junture in regards to health care. I want to create an ongoing, evolving discussion about ways to manage this situation, before it becomes more critical. In the same way that the intake a well trained acupuncturist develops a comprehensive "picture" of an individual's health we need to do the work necessary to accurately evaluate our values and see to what degree does health care fit into our values.

I will write more and I have a few more topics on the horizon...

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Amazing results

A few weeks ago, back when I was supervising in the student clinic at the Asian Institute of Medical Studies we had a patient that has a serious, life-threatening condition. Her blood does not clot, she has a genetic condition that will always be with her.

Can you imagine, for a paper cut she will HAVE to go to the hospital, it is not a choice; her blood will continue to seep and or spurt out until she gets Western medicine to stop it. She said she has to put a towel over her hand, hold it over her head with tight compression and go immediately to the emergency room. That would be for a very minor cut, for a serious cut it would be much more serious. For this reason she is on continual birth-control, which I actually support and agree with.

When she was leaving I talked to her about an idea I had for her. There is a herbal powder available in most Chinese herbal stores called Yunan Bai Yao that we use to stop bleeding. In fact in the war in Vietnam many times our soldiers would find a bottle of it, with it's 'red emergency pill' in the pockets of dead Vietnamese soldiers. But they did not know why. I told this woman to go buy some and keep it with her, in her purse or somewhere where it will ALWAYS be accessible. The next time she gets cut, sprinkle some on to the cut. AND go to the hosiptal.

I got a report back last week from her intern.

She cut herself about a week ago. She was freaking out, as you can imagine. Then she remembered theYunan Bai Yao, she sprinkled in on the cut. She told her intern that she could literally see the blood stop flowing. She was able to just put a bandaid over the cut and was fine.

Now of course I am gonna tell you "Don't try this at home!!!" But in all honesty, I think it could be of great value, and especially if you live in a remote area. It is amazing stuff, and it works.

Friday, August 10, 2007


A few posts ago I said I had some big news to write. So here goes.
I have decided, after much Soul searching, to close my practice and move back to Albuquerque New Mexico. There have been many deciding factors in this decision, but it is, in the words of R. L. Wing, a conflict in the environment. As per usual with my thoughts I will back up a few paces to lay in some groundwork then finish with my current thoughts.
There is a very ancient text from Sun Tzu called "The Art of War" which has been described as one of the most widely translated books on strategy, negotiation and warfare. I have several copies from various translators. By far my favorite is R. L. Wing's translation "The Art of Strategy." Mr. Wing makes the significant point that every Chinese ideogram can be translated in at least six separate ways depending on the context in which it is being used.
For his book he separates out four significant areas in which one can become involved in a conflict. Conflict within the Self, Conflict with another, Conflict with the environment, and Conflict between leaders. When I read his translations and think about which type of conflict is most significantly impacting my life I then find the ancient words of Sun Tzu to have significant insight and power.
About a conflict with the environment he writes "In an environmental conflict your surroundings - at home or at work, logistically or politically are limiting your personal growth (Emphasis is mine) or compromising your principles. Many of your decisions, actions and associations have kept you in your environment - were that not so you would be somewhere else. Through your participation, you are supporting the very structure you wish to alter or transcend. ... Environmental conflicts are overcome only be re-forming your relationship to the environment and assuming more control, or by detaching yourself from the environment and leaving it behind."
Later he writes "Often you will not recognize environmental conflicts because you are in the midst of them, busily trying to adapt. Generally, what you experience of your conflict are side effects; poor health, depression, feelings frustration or hopelessness, severe stress, anxiety, or a strong attraction to mindless activities. Only with careful analysis can you trace these symptoms to their cause. If you are caught in an environmental conflict it must be transcended before your personal growth can continue.
I have been experiencing many of the symptoms he describes in varying degree during my time here in Tucson. I know part of this is the stress of running my own business, and part is the stress of teaching; but I have also looked at my experience out in nature here in the Sonoran desert. I have found my experience of the desert to be very harsh. I have NOT been able to enjoy getting outside, and during the summer I cannot enjoy the outside at all.
Working as an acupuncturist one of the things that 'recharges' me is getting outside to walk in nature. When I find nature to be too harsh to enjoy I am in a conflict with my needs. In this particular conflict I would either have to find a way to learn to live in and enjoy 105+ degree temperatures, or leave the area. You can guess which I am choosing.
I have noticed something about myself since I have made this decision: I am very happy and looking forward to what will come. That is new.
I will miss many of the people I have had the pleasure of meeting and working with. There have been some great people and I am very appreciative of each one and the lessons I have learned while I have been here.
What will I be doing in Albuquerque you wonder? Well, Check back in a few weeks and I will let you know. I have a potentially awesome job lined up, but there are still a few minor hurdles to pass before I write about it. Besides that I want you to want to come back to check in.

Friday, August 03, 2007


Well I am going to do something that I have not allowed myself to do on this blog. I am going to express some thoughts I have about society and ways of addressing some of the issues facing our times. I could try to wrap this around TCM and describe it as a "Pattern of disharmony", which it is, but I have yet to determine an adequate label for this particular pattern. If you don't like my thoughts and or thinking process, come back next week; I will be back to writing about my usual stuff... LOL.

In my last blog about Sicko I mentioned that I was going to share some of my thoughts. Well here goes.

There are many issues facing our society at this time. In fact the list becomes so daunting that it is easy to just give up and say "To heck with it, I will just take care of my own." But I do not feel that is a useful, productive or adequate response. I understand it, but do not agree with it.
One of the issues I see is our "dis-connectedness." It is so common these days to live in an area of town and not know anyone that lives next to you. The media talks about connectivity, how for example I can write this from Tucson and anyone with access to the 'web' can read it anywhere on the planet. But we do not speak as much about not being connected to our neighborhood, not knowing your neighbors. This disconnectedness is also prevalent in our youth, it can and does in my opinion, lead to not feeling involved in our country.

I enlisted in the Navy when I was 21, a bit older than most, but it was the beginning of many, many great choices that have led me to being here, in this chair writing this blog. It was a great choice, time and experience. I have also seen the military destroy peoples spirit, to the extent that I do not know if they ever fully recovered. But, overall I did develop a deep appreciation for our country and it was a very 'developmental' time for me. I became a part of something bigger than myself, with rewards for good actions/choices and consequences for ill-thought-out actions and choices. That experience still guides me to this day.

I truly feel that every CITIZEN has a responsibility to help develop our country. But that being said I DO NOT feel that the military is always the best choice. So here are some thoughts I have been chewing on for a few years.

I have a few friends from Israel, each one of them has served the mandatory 2 years in their military, and it was good for them overall. It did develop a sense of community and inclusion. Even though they live in America they identify as being Israeli. I would love to see a version of that in our country. But as I said the military is not for everyone. So I have a list of four separate functions one could perform 'in service' to the country. And as you can imagine from tying this to a discussion about the movie Sicko I think we should have Free, Universal Health care for everyone.

1] Military service. This is necessary, even Sun Tzu would say "In times of Peace a Warrior keeps his sword at his side." It is honorable and needed to have a strong military, look at Sweden. They do not engage in war, but can have a force of nearly 2,000,000 armed soldier on the streets in less than 4 hours. One hell of a defensive force to contend with. Sun Tzu also said "There has yet to be a prolonged conflict that is of benefit to either side." [R.L. Wing has a fantastic translation "The Art of Strategy", it is excellent.]

2] Rebuild the "Civilian Construction Corps." As this weeks tragedy of a bridge collapse has shown our infrastructure has been neglected for so long it is collapsing. The Steam-pipe that exploded in New York City is only one example. I heard yesterday that on average one bridge a week collapses in our country, the highways are in serious need of repair, the dams, the railways. The list goes on. In the 30's the Civilian Construction Corp served many purposes, but they built and rebuilt many, many fine components of our society.

3] Reducing our carbon imprint, or what I call "Green T" as in Technology. I will not go in to the redundancy of "An Inconvenient Truth" but will say that most anyone that watches weather would have to admit something is causing the weather patterns to change. This generation has to face the incontrovertible truth that if we do not address this problem we are sealing the fates of our unborn grandchildren.

4] Health care. When I watched the workers actually go "down to the pile" in the aftermath of 9/11 I said this is bad. We KNEW that the World Trade Center buildings were built in an era when asbestos was used. It was only logical to presume that the dust floating around the pile had to contain asbestos. When the EPA stated it was safe to be there, in my personal and professional opinion, they were telling a flat-out lie. Fast-forward 6 years, these workers are dying from various lung diseases and our government is not doing anything of value for them. But how about our elders? They too are in a terrible position. When one has to decide if you want food or medicine you are "between a rock and a hard place."

So, those are four areas that our country needs work in, and it would reduce unemployment, it could attract some great minds. The area I called Green T could be one of the most exiting areas to explore. But all four areas need great minds and willing bodies.

How do I propose paying for this you ask? Very simple, a18% flat tax, reduce our overgrown military, employ our prisoners and cut out all the BS "earmarks" the politicians sign off on.

Will this ever happen? I doubt it, but I needed to voice this. Thanks for reading it, please write to your friends and family, and to anyone that might have some input into the equation, send them the link I am thinking of our politicians that are supposedly running for presidency. See if any of them have the cojone's to touch this hot potato...

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Are you Sickened by Sicko?

I went to see Michael Moore's Movie Sicko this week. I was very impressed by it. Setting aside any political commentary about Mr. Moore I thought his approach to this subject was illuminating.

I am treating two physicians and a nurse. Before I saw the movie I asked them if they had. They all said no, BUT the two females said "I don't need to see it, I live it everyday." The male said he did not want to see it because "All he does is point out problems and does not offer any solutions." I respectfully commented that it is not his job to offer solutions (which he does) but he is trying to generate a discussion about this issue.

I also noticed that their responses tended to break along a gender line in that (as much as I dislike generalities I will use them to point something out. Just remember these are generalities, not specific to individuals) women tend to communicate to develop rapport, establish connections and share experiences. Men tend to communicate to solve problems. "Here is the problem, what do we do to fix it?" Of course that is only a generality, but if does fit this example. (I first learned about this from the book "You just don't understand!" by Debra Tanner Ph.D. a great book about gender communication issues. Maybe Mom will review it for us...)

I was very impressed by other nations health care approaches, and very saddened by ours. When the workers from NYC 9/11 cannot get adequate health care and are dying while our government does next to nothing to support them is appalling. But it fits nicely with the pharmaceutical industries record level profits.

So if you can I would strongly recommend that you watch this movie, but more importantly I would encourage us to start a discussion about this issue. It is not going away.

For my next blog I will jump off the deep end and actually write some of my thinking about ways to address several issues at once that are deeply affecting our society.

Then I have some really big news after that.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

A bit deeper

I posted the last article as a way to start a discussion about concepts, languages and limitations. I figured Yin/Yang theory is as good of a place to attempt this as any other concept I can think of.

I am in the middle of another interesting book "A Brief History of Qi" (look in my bookstore) that has spurred me along in this thinking process. One of the issues I deal with, both as an acupuncturist as well as being an instructor, is the paradox of having to use words to describe a paradigm that exists outside of language. Yet knowing that to some extent, language both describes and creates reality as we know it.

Let me return to Yin-Yang theory as an interesting example. It is, essentially, quite simple as that article from my class notes explains. But it is also exceedingly complex, subtle and elusive. One of my favorite sayings about this is:

The One

Became the Two

The Two became the Three

The Three became the Ten-Thousand

The "One" is that which created all, or the Tao, or the Word. Essentially it is "the primordial soup that existed before the universe was created." The Two is Yin-Yang, in all its myriad interconnected facets. The Three is the Qi or the dynamic interplay of energy/beingness between the polarities expressed as Yin or Yang. The "ten-thousand" means "all things."
What I find lacking in most discussions about Yin-Yang theory is the acknowledgement of the ONE. This means that the discussion starts off from a polarized, dualistic perspective. It is "this" or it is "that." Hot/Cold, Night/Day, Internal/External; the list goes on, and on, and on, forever.
But unless one accepts and acknowledges that there is something higher or more refined than Yin-Yang theory we are still locked in a dualistic paradigm. I find myself reminded of the words of Albert Einstein: "We cannot solve the problems we are facing by using the same level of consciousness we used when we created them."
Maybe this would read better if I used the word "Consciousness" in place of the One or the Tao.
But my point today is that while Yin-Yang theory is very useful in TCM, it is also inherently limiting. I have to step past these limitations while I incorporate the strengths and resolve the inherent weaknesses of the paradigm.
In closing I will just add a very profound teaching I have been exposed to; "What the two extremes {Yin-Yang} have in common is where you find the Truth." So as I work with a patient, or within myself, I try to not focus on the extremes, but more on the dynamic interplay that exists within the common ground, or stated another way ~ From a dynamic, balanced perspective in the Middle of the Storm. Or maybe think of it this way, a clock pendulum swings back and forth, the lower it is the more extreme the shifts are, yet the higher one ascends the more gentle these same shifts are experienced. It is about ascending in consciousness to that centered, calm point. From there it is simple to change, it is only at the lower levels that the change comes as such a cost (health, relationships, careers, etc.).

Friday, July 06, 2007

An old note from my days in school

Chinese Acupuncture and Moxibustion

Basic knowledge and theory of Yin Yang

1) The opposition of Yin and Yang.

Everything in nature has two opposites, namely yin and yang. The opposition of yin and yang is reflected in their ability to struggle with, and thus control each other. If for any reason this mutual opposition results in an excess or deficiency of yin or yang, the relative physiological balance will be destroyed, and disease will arise.

“When yin predominates, yang will be diseased; when yang predominates yin will be diseased.”

2) The interdependence of yin and yang.

Yin and yang oppose each other and yet, at the same time, also have a mutually dependant relationship. Neither can exist without the other. Both yin and yang are the condition for the other’s existence, and this relationship is known as the interdependence of yin and yang.

“Yin remains inside to act as a guard for yang, and yang stays outside to act as a servant for yin.”

When this is applied to the physiology of the human body, yin corresponds to nutrient substances, and yang to function activities. “Without yang there would be no production of yin; without yin there would be no production of yang.”

3) The inter-consuming-supporting relationship of yin and yang.

The two aspects of yin and yang within any phenomenon are not fixed, but in a state of continuous mutual consumption and support. Under normal circumstances the inter-consuming-supporting relation of yin and yang is in a state of relative balance.

4) The inter-transforming relationship of yin and yang.

In certain circumstances either of the two may transform into its opposite. “Extreme yin will necessarily produce yang, and extreme yang will necessarily produce yin….Severe cold will give birth to heat, and severe heat will give birth to cold.”

5) The infinite divisibility of yin and yang.

“Yin and yang could amount to ten in number; they could be extended to one hundred, ten thousand or infinity; but although infinitely divisible, yin and yang are based upon only one important principle.”

Greater Yin is called Taiyin (the third yin), Lesser Yin is called Shaoyin (the second yin), Greater Yang is called Taiyang (the third yang), Scanty Yang is called Shaoyang (the first yang), Extreme Yang is called Yangming (the second yang), and Declining Yin is called Jueyin (the first yin). The three yin and the three yang are a further amplification of yin and yang, and also reflect the consuming-supporting relationship of yin and yang.

Application of the Theory of Yin and Yang in Traditional Chinese Medicine.

1) Yin-Yang and the organic structure of the human body.

When the theory of yin-yang is applied to xplain the organic structure of the human body, the underlying premise is that the human body is an integrated whole. “Man has a physical shape which is inseparable from yin and yang.”

Yin-Yang and the physiological functions of the human body.

Functional activities pertain to yang and nutrient substances to yin. “When yin is stabilized and yang well-conserved, the spirit will be in harmony; separation of yin and yang will cause exhaustion of essential Qi.”

Yin-Yang and pathological changes in the human body.

Traditional Chinese Medicine considers that the occurrence of disease results from the loss of relative balance between yin and yang, and hence and excess or deficiency of either. The occurrence and development of disease is related both to the antipathogenic qi and to pathogenic factors. There are two types of pathogenic factors: yin and yang. Antipathogenic qi involves yin fluid and yang qi.

These types of disease can be generalized and explained by: “imbalance of yin and yang,” “excess of yin leading to cold syndromes,” “excess of yang leading to heat syndromes,” “deficiency of yang leading to cold syndromes,” and “deficiency of yin leading to heat syndromes.”

“A good doctor will observe the patient’s complexion and feel the pulse, and thus take the first step in determining if it is a yin or a yang disease.”

“The essential technique of needling consists of striking a balance between yin and yang.”

Thursday, July 05, 2007

A completely different meaning of "acupuncture"

For the last month or so I have been practicing archery. It is an amazing discipline to enter. I am sensing a more palpable link between my thinking/awareness and my physical beingness.

In shooting, once one gets the physical stance sorted out and smooth the next step becomes "consistency." This can manifest in many ways; are my arrows grouped together or all spread out over the target, or did I completely miss the target bale? OOOOPS, it is always embarasing when that happens... LOL ;-)

If I get my physical structure to be consistent, then my internal beingness has to become calm, centered and focused. I have found that even a blip of a thought just at or just the instant before releasing the arrow will cause my arrow to be slightly off target. I am also amazed to find that if I move my arm holding the bow BEFORE the arrow hits the target that too has an effect on my accuracy.

I am enjoying this process and I am seeing improvement in my form, accuracy and understanding.

But how, or maybe even does this manifest in my work as an acupuncturist? A good question.

I am reading more and more about how important "pattern differentiation" is in TCM. As I went through school I appreciated the impact of pattern differentiation as a way to formulate a language to express what I was seeing in any given patients presenting signs and symptoms. For example a patient has low back pain I would know to look for signs of Kidney deficiency.

The pattern differentiation became the "structure" in diagnosis in Traditional Chinese Medicine. As any black-belt worth their rank will tell you "Mastery of any art is found in the thorough understanding and mastery of the basics." Or stated another way if I do not understand how to execute an effective front-snap kick how can I reasonably expect to learn how to execute a jump-spinning-backside kick?

As I return to a deeper level or awareness of the implications of pattern differentiation I also am more aware of how my own internal structure IS influencing my execution of correct pattern identification. As I said earlier if a blip of a thought goes through my mind just as or just before I release the arrow it affects my accuracy. Yes I still hit the target, but it is not as accurate as it could have been. Yet, how do I contain this if my pattern identification is dependent on my thinking? A catch-22 to be sure.

What I am seeing is that it becomes a situation of awareness. In this I mean that I do not expect my mind to shut off as I work my way through a complex diagnosis, but I do expect my mind to focus on the essentials and leave my particular bias outside. I find that as I enter into and focus on being present in the moment it is easier to hear the subtle whisperings that may make a difference in my pattern identification. I also find, as in my practice in archery or in my martial arts training (when I take the time to return to that...) that the basics are so fundamentally important to effective work. Yet as I look at completing my tenth year of study of TCM I find that as with my martial perspective I am only a senior beginner. I strive to drink my cup empty as frequently as I can so I can learn more and refine my understanding of my study of TCM.

I am still growing and evolving. Maybe it would be more accurate to refer to myslf as an expert-beginner?
What do you think???

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Approval of a BAD idea

Yesterday I heard that the FDA has approved "continual birth control" as a way to minimize pain from different menstrual irregularities including endometriosis. I find this hard to understand.

From a TCM perspective this is another bad idea in the continuum of different options for treating gynecological disorders. I have already written about 'botox injections' as one way of stopping menstruation for up to three months. That is a truly bad idea, injecting poison directly into the uterus to effectively paralyze it, thus stopping ovulation and menstruation giving one the illusion that the problem has been addressed.

To stop ovulation is not natural, nor is it in a woman's best interest. The process of shedding eggs and the endometrium, the lining of the uterus, is important in allowing the energy to continue to flow and to allow her to be fertile, healthy and vibrant. The long-term complications that arise from stopping this natural cycle will not be apparent for years, however they will manifest eventually. By shedding the endometrium her body is clearing itself of toxins. These cells are designed to be shed. The symptoms that manifest with the period are indicators of imbalances, they are NOT the problem.

One thing that concerns me is the complexity of the discussion we need to have about this. To retain the endometrium and eggs within a woman's uterus for essentially "cosmetic" reasons {I am sorry about that word, but I cannot think of another word to describe this procedure as it is not medically necessary, nor in my opinion advisable.} is to retain toxins within her body. There is a complete set of pathological complications, or patterns-of-disharmony, that come from "lingering pathogens trapped within." These are "knotty"or complex conditions that are difficult to treat. These patterns involve both excesses and deficiencies, complicated with heat and or cold and blood stasis. Even without a firm understanding of Chinese Medicine you can begin to understand that if there are these polar opposites it becomes more complex to treat effectively.

I think what I wanted to say in this post is to remind us all about the "law of unintended consequences." I can see a whole range of consequences that may come from continual birth control, 99.99% of them are not good. As I mentioned earlier, the manifestations of an irregular or abnormal menstruation are NOT the problem, but rather are symptoms of a deeper imbalance. What will that imbalance morph into if it is repressed for years, even decades? Whatever it changes into it will not be good, it may even become cancer and or other very bad conditions.

Please consider what I am writing about and think about the law of unintended consequences. if any of you have questions about this feel free to contact me.


Friday, May 11, 2007

Frozen Wind

The doctor told her she had a tumor in her brain and that surgery was the best option. When they got into the tumor they found that it had grown around an artery in her brain. While scraping the tumor off the artery, the artery was 'nicked' and she had a massive stroke. She survived, but will never be the same. The right side of her face is severely affected, her speech is seriously impaired, as well as her walking and all right side body movements.

That was two years ago. Countless hours of rehab later she is still only able to walk with a walker or a cane. Most times out of the house she will be in her chair, as it is easier over all.

I had the pleasure of meeting and treating this beautiful soul. We have been working together on a weekly basis for 4 weeks now. Her face is still paralyzed, but she is starting to get some tingling sensations around her eye and in her cheek.

This beautiful soul is teaching me about perseverance, and perspective.

Those of you that know me can imagine how I would respond to this if it were me. I am not even sure the doc could have convinced me to let them open up my skull and perform the surgery. Much less what my reaction would have been to the aftermath of that surgery...

This beautiful soul has realized that there is some reason she is still alive. She may not be happy, but she is not unhappy. She may want to do "this" but she can accept that she cannot do everything as she used to do. Through all of our time together she is so positive, yet realistic. It humbles me.

From a TCM perspective we talk about a stroke as "internal wind" because it strike so fast like wind and it is internally generated. The shaking of Parkinson's disease, the twitching of a facial muscle, a gran-mal seizure; all of these are manifestations of Internal Wind.

I add the term "frozen" on because the sequela of a stroke leaves the face muscles "frozen" in place. Bells palsy is a very good example, and it is one that responds well to acupuncture and herbs. (In fact if you ever have Bells palsy, or know someone that does, send them to an acupuncturist ASAP!)

The treatment for Internal Wind is to nourish the Liver, Extingush the Wind, and to Calm the Shen (spirit). We are proceeding with this, but because of the medications she is on I will not risk using herbs. Chinese herbology can be very effective in treating stroke, but I will not risk that for her, at this time. maybe later...

But for me, for today I am just feeling humbled by this beautiful, powerful soul. It really does help put my life into perspective....

Be well,
With Love & respect
(PS: Everyone passed the herbal mid-term. WHEW!!! Big load off my shoulders...)

Friday, May 04, 2007

More than 9 Volts

It has been an interesting time. I have been seeing quite a few individuals with various physical injuries. The gentleman with the back pain I wrote about recently is doing very well. He left to return to his summer home, but he did so standing upright and with a smile on his face. That was nice to see.

I have been using the micro-stimulation (e-stim) device I have on many of my patients. It really does help in certain conditions. In fact I have used it so much that I had to replace the battery! I just drained it over the last 6 months of use. Before this replacement The previous battery lasted 18 months.

I find it interesting to use e-stim. This has been in use since approximately 1958, and the understanding and application of e-stim has evolved and been refined a lot over that time. I remember the first time I experienced it; the machine was not of the best quality. As soon as I could feel the electrical stimulation the intern at the school attempted to turn it up just slightly; I almost went through the roof. The machine had "spiked" because of the poor quality of electronics used to make it. The machine I have is a high quality, Japanese made unit. It responds well to the controls, in a very predictable manner.

One reason I find the use of e-stim to be interesting is the difficulty it presents in explaining its function. The temptation is to use "Western Scientific Terminology" to explain its effectiveness; but that is also the trap. I feel it is very important to keep my understanding of "all things Chinese Medicine" in the paradigm of Chinese medicine. I have to resist the temptation to explain something in a western scientific term whenever possible.

One of the other instructors at the school explained this very well, and very clearly. I will paraphrase his explanation.

He said, and I have used this exact terminology for several years, that it is very much like languages. In this explanation he said that when "Western Science" tries to explain Chinese medicine and science one has to be careful to look at a deeper message within this attempt. He said it MAY cover a belief that "Western Science is the TRUE science" and that anything that happens has to be able to be explained in that paradigm. Think about that for a minute. Carried out to a logical conclusion that would state that for the Mayan calendar to be 'true' it would have to have been built and explainable in Western scientific terms, or that the Hopi belief system is inaccurate, untrue and inexplicable. There would be many many examples of this; but the point is that this type of thinking greatly limits what you will see or learn.

His other example was directly about languages, and it is an example I have used in my presentation to various doctors over the years. If one takes the example of one person speaking Italian and another person speaking Greek it would not be accurate to presume that either of the languages is the "truth" at the exclusion of the other. It is also very important to remember that when one translates from one language to another something is ALWAYS lost in the translation. This becomes very important when trying to explain and or understand the concept of one scientific paradigm as compared to another.

As an example let me discuss pain; it is accepted as a 'statement of fact' in Chinese medicine that "where there is no free flow (of qi) there is pain, and where there is pain there is no free flow (of qi)." In a reductionist argument one could say that all of the treatment for pain involves and revolves around reducing or removing the obstruction of the flow of qi that is manifesting as pain. That statement has some truth, but it does not address pain from deficiency, which is a completely different subject. But within the spectrum of pain caused by an impediment to the flow of qi it is accurate, though limited. So in this one could use acupuncture, Chinese herbal medicine, Chinese Medical Massage (tuina) to restore the free flow of qi and stop the pain.

E-stim works to reduce or dissolve the obstruction that is impeding the free flow of qi; once the qi can flow the body will return to its own natural state of well being.

E-stim does NOT work for all types of pain, nor does it work by incorporating Western Science and Chinese Medical Science. In a way that is difficult to explain it works within the contextual understanding of Chinese Medicine to resolve the stagnation, or impediment of the free flow of the qi within the meridians. I have seen that when the 'intensity' needed to elicit any sensation decreases it indicates that the degree of stagnation, or impediment has also decreased; and if the level of intensity is fairly high it indicates a higher degree of stagnation is present.

The last piece of this is that the results are not always immediately apparent. I treated a gentleman last week for excruciating pain in his right elbow. At the end of the treatment he was still in severe pain. We agreed to try again, after all he has had this pain fro 16 years. I got a message today that the next day his pain was "drastically reduced."

It is great when this happens, and it is much, much more than 9 volts...

Monday, April 16, 2007

Yao Tong Xue

Last week I had the pleasure of meeting and treating a gentleman that has had severe back pain, steadily getting worse for the last 30 years. When he walked into the treatment room he was bent over, and shuffling along. I asked him "Is there any position you can get into that will be less painful?" He said "I have to lie face down." I got him into position as carefully as I could.

There are a set of points, located on the back of your hand; if you follow the gap between the bones from the knuckles towards the wrist, between the little finger and the ring finger, and the gap between the index and middle finger. Where the bones meet, or the gap ends is a set of points called "Yao Tong Xue" or Lumbar Pain Point. You know I have to love practical names, especially in acupuncture points.

These points have demonstrated empirical evidence that they reduce lumbar back pain. That is nice, but it does not really make sense from a meridian energetics perspective. But I do not care about that as any of you that know me realize. I care about results.

I asked my patient to quantify his level of pain on a 1-10 scale. I do not like those scales but they do have their uses. He replied if it could go higher he would give it a higher number. Very intense pain. The type where all your awareness is engulfed. Nothing except pain is in your awareness. I put the needles into the back of both of his hands, placed the heat lamp above his lower back and started asking his wife the questions for my intake form.

After about 15 minutes I asked him how he was feeling. He replied "All I am feeling is the heat on my back."

After the questions I proceeded into the rest of my treatment. He has had back surgery and has a neural stimulator in his back to minimize or over-ride the pain sensations. But he does not use that very much. He is on a phentonal patch (a morphine derivative pain killer). So that limits a few of the tools I would normally use.

At the end of the treatment, after I had removed the needles I asked him to gently get up and sit of stand ,which ever would be less painful. He sat right up. when he stood up he stood all the way up. His wife commented that she had not seen him stand that straight in YEARS. When he left he said he was pain free!!!


I do not expect that to remain that way, in fact his pain returned somewhat 4 hrs later, but he is still standing more straight than before.

I will see him today and we will talk about healing curves. It is not a straight linear process. One improves then there is a 'set-back' of some kind or another and you slide back a bit. But the point you slide back to is almost always at a "higher" point than where you were when you started, then you continue back up the healing slope, and then you slide back a bit. And so it goes.

Of course that is not the way it always is. We all know there are some diseases where it is just the opposite. But it is great to have been a part of this transformational experience. I will encourage him to enjoy it while he can and to not have preconceived ideas of what his future holds. On either side of that possibility.

Friday, April 06, 2007

Is this for real?

I have a google alert in my e-mail system, so anytime an article gets published on the net about acupuncture I get a once a day notice of this. It is pretty amazing. I would never read through the thousands of news sources to see if any particular story is interesting. Some are very interesting. There is all kinds of really interesting research going on by mainstream sources. It is very exciting.

Then there is this story. I do not know enough about the "double-blind" research mentioned in the Wired article. But the concept is a stretch, to be sure. Then I start to think about quantum physics, and the simple black/white boundary blurs into a ever-changing shade of gray.

I do know enough to understand that I do not know enough to evaluate this fairly. I mean acupuncture itself can be said to function on a quantum physics level. Who am I to say this Dr. is not legitimate and able to do what he claims to do. And how could one evaluate it.

To me, it is another potential area of concern. If someone that feels acupuncture is 'quack medicine' reads the Wired article it will only convince them they are right. That same individual would probably not go to Bastyr University's website for their article. If a university of the stature of Bastyr would invite Dr. Sha to give a lecture it would tend to add some legitimacy to his statements.

He even has his own Wikipedia entry.

So, I guess what I am left with for today is confusion. If any of you can, please post a comment, or link to an article that might help us understand this.

Friday, March 23, 2007

End of the Quarter

It has been a while since I took the time to write a blog. Things have been going well, I have been very busy in my clinic and with teaching at Asian Institute of Medical Studies. I have enjoyed teaching this quarter, though it was a LOT of work.

I have been attempting to develop a new study to see if the protocol I have for treating endometriosis is as effective as I believe it to be. So I am now going to start looking for funding for this. Knowing the intensity of the pain these ladies deal with I think the price per patient ($1,220) is very very reasonable. The study would include 16 acupuncture treatments and herbs, and the "auricluar" treatments I have been incorporating into my treatments.

I have written a (very) rough draft of my initial idea and proposal. If any of my readers know who I might approach to find funding for this, please let me know.

Or if any of you have suggestions of a better way to write about this idea, please let me know. I am good at generating the idea's, but not as fluent as I would like to be in writing a clear concise proposal.

Endometriosis Treatment Protocol

I have developed an effective, safe treatment for endometriosis. I am looking to find a way to get 20 women to participate in a specific treatment protocol as a way to evaluate its effectiveness. The one patient I have worked with had great results, but that is only one.

The treatments will all include: acupuncture, Chinese herbology, and auricular seeds (left in place for up to 3 weeks at a time).

The protocol format is to receive weekly treatments for the first 8 weeks, then every other week for the next 8 weeks, with two treatments every three weeks for the remaining12 weeks. (16 total)


Weekly treatments for 8 weeks will establish and regulate her menstrual cycle, noticeable reducing the myriad of pain many women experience with menstruation.

Bi-Weekly treatments will continue to regulate her cycle and address many of the underlying imbalances.

Treatments every 3 weeks will allow me to see each woman at all phases of her cycle throughout the remainder of the study time.

Chinese Herbal Therapies

One of the primary patterns of disharmony women experience with endometriosis is “Blood Stasis”, this will be the primary herbal focus, though it will vary with each woman to fit her unique situation

Auricular Therapies

Each ear is a microcosm of the entire body, by diagnosing and treating through the ears the treatments are extended well beyond the time of the treatment, and utilizing the diagnosis we can determine how the individual woman’s patterns are evolving.


Acupuncture $65 per session (including auricular tx) $1040

Herbs $30 per month avg, $180

Total cost per Patient $1220

Total Study Cost (20 patients) $24,400

Let me know what you think, or if you can think of anyone to contact.


Sunday, February 18, 2007

My Bookstore

I have had several people ask where to find the music that I play during my treatments, or where they can find good books about acupuncture and or Traditional Chinese Medicine. So I took my sisters advice (She always has GREAT idea's).

I have created a "book store" through It is a collection of different books, music and resources. The nice part is it does not add a penny to the price of the item, and I get a very small percentage in return and that can help me get more books.

If you want to get any books, please consider navigating through my web page ~ bookstore. I would appreciate it.


Thursday, February 15, 2007

Another stretch of the envelope

One of the classes I am teaching this quarter is "Acupuncture Techniques." This is the final of a series of three classes. I enjoy teaching this class because I get to cover some of the different techniques such as electro-stimulation, intra-dermal needling, auricular acupuncture and "gwa-sha."

A few weeks ago we were covering the electro-stimulation. It is relatively new in the eyes of acupuncture as it is between 30-40 years of age. It is somewhat controversial in that it is not 'traditional,' The ancient masters did not have 9-volt microcurrent machines they could incorporate into their treatments. But I think if they had them, they would have used them and loved them.

The understanding is that pain is caused by a restriction in the flow of energy, or 'qi.' "Where there is no free-flow there is pain. Where there is free-flow there is no pain" is an ancient saying in Traditional Chinese Medicine. Micro-current electrical stimulation is used to break up the stagnation that is impeding the flow of the qi, thereby reducing the pain level.

Lets look at this in the context of knee pain. Imagine six needles into the area around your knee, two above, two below and two on both sides of the knee joint itself. Now visualize a MICRO current being sent through the needles into the muscles and to the opposite needle. Top-outside needle to bottom-inside needle.

By passing a MICRO current through the knee in this way it does help reduce the pain. I know from my own personal experience and the many, many others I have helped with this.

So we were covering this concept and teaching the students what to do, and most importantly what NOT to do.

One of the students used to be a cabinet maker, carpenter, wood-worker. Her wrist has these strange nodule/growths on them. She asked what would happen if we hooked her to the machine. I replied: "I honestly do not know." She asked again if we would. She really wants to get rid of these nodules, there are three just above the wrist all in a line and all about the size of green peas.

So I said, as I am prone to saying:" What the heck, why not!" We hooked her up to the machine with only one lead pushing the current through the phlegm-ball nodules. It was turned up fairly high, a 6.5 and I have NEVER turned it above a 7. It has been my experience that we normally feel it around 3-3.5. The higher the number the more energy it is taking to get through the area and I take that to mean the greater or more severe the damage. After around 15 minutes, still with no feeling of sensation all of the sudden her arm started twitching and she could feel it, strongly. That had changed in a time of 10-15 seconds. I turned it way down then off in a few more minutes.

She reported the arm as having more feeling. She was happy and excited about it. Two weeks later is when we really stretched the envelope.

The next week we were covering "Intradermal needles" where you insert a very small, very short needle and then tape it in place and leave it there for a few days. We did that to her wrist, at her specific request. (You have to love adventurous acupuncture students!!!) The tape came off and was gone before she left the parking lot. I guess her body just did not like that idea.

But, Bless her heart, she wanted to try something a bit more aggressive. SO.

We cleaned her arm up then using a diabetic lancet we 'popped' the most distal nodule and then she pushed out this clear, slightly yellow gelatinous mass. (Read this as yech!!!). It felt fine, we covered it and went on with class.

Two week later the masses on her wrist are completely gone. She feels better, has more range of motion and better sensation.

But in all actuality I must confess this was stretching even my envelope. But it was effective and I always say that is what is the most important.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

How often does this happen?

So here is the question of the day. When was the last time you heard of, or saw a major movie release that has Chinese Herbal Medicine as an integral part of the story?

Last week I was going to see one movie when I saw a poster for "The Curse of the Yellow Flower" starring Chow Yun Fat. I had never heard of this movie, but that is not surprising as I do not go to the theatre very often. But since I like the director and the leading actor I decided to give it a try.

It is a very good movie set in China around 1000 years ago. The colors, acting and story were all fantastic. I will say this movie shows 'dysfunctional families' at a completely different level.

Without giving the story away I will say that herbs are an integral part of the plot and it was fascinating to watch the scenes involving the herbal dispensary.

If you care to, go check this movie out. It will not stay on the big screen too long, but it is worth seeing.

Now back to work....

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

An Update, and another unsual response

Well, last week I had the pleasure of seeing the lady with the 3rd degree burns again. She is such a nice lady. I thought she was doing better after the last treatment, but I was mistaken. It is not that she is in more pain, but she is not getting any results from the treatments. She thinks she is getting more relief from the massages. So I encouraged her to continue to get the massages and to call me if she needs my services.

When I was inserting the needles in her this week it was painful to her. That is unusual, most of the time a patient rarely feels my insertions, but not this time. I have seen it when one point will hurt for whatever reason, but with her this time every point was hurting. If you have read my blogs for a while you can guess that I did not like causing her any pain. So it was a hard treatment for both of us...

I have been thinking about what happened to cause her to experience pain at the site of the needle insertion. Of course as with all things acupuncture I can not be sure, but here is what I have been thinking.

Her burns happened over 6 decades ago, whatever damage was done has had a long time to 'settle in.' Then here I go interrupting that with electric micro-stimulation, and then top that off with the Ion-pumping cords. I know both of these forms of treatment are very effective, so it would be reasonable to presume that something changed in the area I was working with. Exactly what, or how remains to be seen. There is a part of me that tells myself that in a few weeks or months she will have a significant change. I believe that it will be a change for the better.

I spoke to one of the students at school that has a lot of experience working with different dermatological conditions. She made a creme that I gave to the patient that could help release some of the tension in her skin. Time will tell in this one as well... I will hear how she is doing through the massage therapist and I may have the pleasure of running across her at the clinic. I will update as the situation warrants.

Now for another unusual response... As if you would expect me to write about something normal???

I have been working with a gentleman that has been diagnosed with multiple mental labels including being "bi-polar" or what used to be called manic-depressive. He is an interesting individual, to be sure. I ask him how his energy is and he replies "I can light Chicago." He came to me as a referral, his allopathic doc's want to get him more stable and see if they can wean him off some of the medications he is on. It is quite an extensive list. I am glad they are thinking of trying to get him off some of them because I think of his poor over-worked liver. It is a good thing he does not drink, it would probably completely destroy his liver, instead of this slow-death he is currently causing it to experience.

Normally if a patient is on five or more med's I tend to say "no herbs for you." The potential herb-to-drug interaction is too hard to predict. But as with all things there are exceptions and I have resources. I got his complete med list and e-mailed it to my resource. My resource looked it over and my diagnosis and the herbs I wanted to put him on. He agreed with the diagnosis and herbs except one that contained "St.John's Wort" apparently there can be a interaction with St. John's Wort and some psychoactive med's. So he changed to to safe one.

Now, three months later my guy is still able to light up Chicago, New York or any other town you can think of. HMMMM, what am I not seeing here? He has told me that his body reacts backwards to most drugs he gets. Hmmmmmmm, can that happen with acupuncture?

Normally I try to give him a treatment to calm him down. He is nearly levitating when I come back in the room and is even more wired than before. That's not normal...

A few weeks ago he came in and I tried something counter-intuitive. I gave him a treatment that should have jacked his energy up like he just drank 4 espresso's. When I came back in the room he said "For the first time in all my acupuncture treatments I started to relax." He has been getting acupuncture for 5 years...

So to say that I was surprised would be an understatement. I still have not figured out what is going on with his energy,but I started to get a feel for how I can work with it. It's kind of like having the cold water come out of the hot water valve, or the "on" position of a switch being the "off" action. But it is not that simple. Or as a good friend of mine in the martial arts used to say "It's just like that, only completely different."

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Focusing on the work, and working on my focus

It was great to have a break from teaching. The classes all went very well, everyone pased, even if just barely. Over the break I bought a new book on Chinese herbology; Jiao, Shu-De "Ten Lectures on Medicinal's." He is amazing. These lectures take the understanding of herbology to a completely different level; Jiao, Shu-De has been studying and working with Chinese herbology for over six decades. He brings that level of experience into his lectures in a very readable and understandable manner. Of course kudo's go to the translating team.

Getting this book has been great for me in that it has re-energized my enthusiasm for teaching and understanding the herbs. That is always great.

I have been seeing some interesting patients, and getting good results in the treatments; that is always a good thing...

This quarter is a very full load for teaching, clinic and trying to have a life outside of all of that. But it is workable and so far it feels GREAT. Because I am so busy in all of this I have to be very focused. I enjoy that, it helps in all aspects of my life.

I will write more, next week or so to give an update on my complicated patient I mentioned previously. She seems to be doing good, but I want to see her again, last week she had a cold and would not come out of the house...

Take care
Stay warm and Happy

Saturday, December 30, 2006

A serious case for an acupuncture treatment

Just before Christmas I had the honor of meeting a new patient. She came in and told me she had been getting acupuncture and massage. it was helping her a lot.

I asked her what she was getting treated for and she told me "3rd degree burns over most of my back, 60 some years ago." This was the start of our conversation and treatment.

I find her to be a true inspiration. I can only imagine the hardship she has endured, but she is a beautiful shining spirit through it all. I do not know how I would have fared given her challenges, but she seems to have risen above what ever it was that got placed in her way. Kind of put things back into perspective for me...

Anyway, her issue is that the scar tissue is reducing her range of motion. She is not in 'pain', but I am not sure if that is accurate, or if she has just had so much of it that what she is experiencing is not classified as "pain".

I used micro-current electrical stimulation through the most severe area of her scars. This would be an area about the size of my hand, just to the right of her spine, between the ribs and her hips. But her entire back, top to bottom is one big scar, hips and arms have some scars.

The scar tissue has developed into "Keloid scar" tissue, the kind that is very, very thick and pulled in tight. When she raises her arm the skin from her shoulder to her hip pulls tight as a rope.

When I am in school teaching I often mention "understanding the power of limits.' When I first looked at her I had to ask myself: "Is this beyond your limits?" We talked about that and I told her I had never treated anyone with this kind of a condition. We would try it and see.

This week when I saw her she said the treatment helped. That is always good to hear. Over the week I had been thinking about her and had an additional tool to pull out of the tool box, so to speak.

Ion-pumping cords are a Japanese approach to treating many things, but burns in particular. Their understanding is that (this is a Michaelism transliteration: Don't hold me responsible if I do not explain it exactly as others would...) "Pain is cause by an excess of positively charged ions in a local area." The ion-pumping cord has a diode in it that only allows the electrical flow to go in one direction.

After the micro-stimulation treatment, while those needles were still in place I attached an Ion-pumping cord to the site and one to a very distal point. On the outside of her ankle. After a few minutes I asked her if she felt anything at her ankle. Her response was that it felt like it was 'humming." HMMMMMMM, that is weird, but I come to expect that in my treatments.

Acupuncture can do many things. I always want to be willing to try somethingnew, as long as it makes sense in the treatment at that time. But what I was truly touched by was her Heart. Pure Gold!!!

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Ginger, as you have never thought about it before

A few weeks ago my Mom was telling me about an article she read; I believe it was in Newsweek. Anyway it was "Health from A-Z." I was expecting her to mention acupuncture, or Chinese Herbal medicine. She surprised me, as she is known for doing.
N is for nutrient. The one that she was telling me about is Ginger, or what we call Sheng Jiang. Settles the stomach, warms the center. Is also gaining recognition for its effectiveness in helping stop chemotherapy induced nausea. That was all well and good, but not surprising.

What surprised me was when she told me it is being tested for treating ovarian cancer. I was very surprised to learn that it is effective in killing ovarian cancer cells.

I had to read up on that. Here is a quote from the article linked above: "In laboratory studies, researchers found ginger caused ovarian cancer cells to die. Further, the way in which the cells died suggests ginger may avoid the problem common in ovarian cancer of cells becoming resistant to standard treatments."

Lets take a second to think this through. Then I will go off on my tangent... as usual.
If one could use a natural herbal product to kill cancer, why are we not hearing about this? Well to be sure, it has to be investigated more thoroughly. That is obvious and essential.

The type of ginger they use is a powdered form, not the sheng jiang form, but the Gan Jiang form. In TCM's perspective it is spicy and hot. It "Warms the Spleen and Stomach and dispels Cold." It also dispels Internal Cold.

TCM has many different ways of looking at and conceptualizing cancer. Two that resonates with me are "Lingering Pathogens, and Latent Heat" but what is interesting here is that I would see this as using Fire to fight Fire. As a former fire-fighter I can see the validity of that approach. If you can burn out the fuel before it spreads you can actually contain the fire.

Of course always remember that when I use the term "fire" in this context I do not mean the same as what is burning the logs in your fireplace. In the same way as when I mention organs "I do not mean the bio-medical physical-substrate organ. I mean the energy that "runs" the organ. Or in this example the energetics of this dis-ease that manifest as, or have the function of fire. "It is the same thing, only completely different."

So back to the article. If ginger causes the cancer cells to die and in such a way that they may not become resistant to other treatments it could hold a huge potential.

What I am wondering is: is there a way that this could be applied directly. Through laproscopy could a GYN surgeon directly apply ginger as a paste to the cancerous cells on a woman's ovaries? I know about liability, but look at it this way, if a woman is being faced with death, or chemotherapy that will honestly make her wish she was dead at times; would it not make sense to try this. There are organic farmers, get the ginger, dry it out while the lawyers are finessing release of liability forms, then apply it directly to the cells.

What can happen? Well if it is as hot as TCM sees it she may be uncomfortable, that is true and maybe it will be too hot, maybe not. They can flush it out if it is too hot. If not, well maybe it will stop the cancer. Maybe it will not. But if it does not she still has the same choices as before.


Think about that. I do not know the statistics right off, but I do know that ovarian cancer is a deadly serious condition. Don't we owe it to all the women in our lives to try something like this? If it does not work, there would be no damage done. TCM has used ginger for thousands of years. Internally and externally.

The statistics are easy, the same article says: "More than 20,000 women are expected to be diagnosed with ovarian cancer this year, and 15,000 will die from the disease, according to the American Cancer Society. For information about ovarian cancer, go to or call the U-M Cancer AnswerLine at 800-865-1125."

I think this needs to be explored, and not discarded unless it proves that it does not work. But the study from the Unversity of Michigan seems to have promise

Saturday, December 23, 2006

A bit of a break

It is nice to have a bit of time between quarters. I am attempting to catch up on all the paperwork, and year end stuff.

All the students did well enough to pass the herb class. Next quarter is going to be challenging for all of us. I have been teaching the herb class two hours a week; next quarter and the following quarter it will be two two hour classes. It is going to be a challenge to keep up and for the students it will also be a bigger challenge to keep the herbs straight. This one does that, but not this. But compared to the other herb it is stronger in this action. Its enough to drive one crazy. Lucky for me it is a short drive, as I am almost there...

I have been seeing quite a few patients, and they are all interesting and progressing well. Just now I am thinking about the research project I am involved in. It is to study the effects of TCM in treating TMJ pain. What is really good is that it is a "real world study." By that I mean that if my patient is experiencing TMJ pain that is , of course what we will focus on; but if s/he is having back pain or digestive issues or what ever that is what we focus on. Just like in the real world.

It will be a one to one and a half year project, then the numbers get analyzed and we will see what comes of it. It is a NIH study, so that amazes me that we have this degree of flexibility in our treatment protocol.

Otherwise things are good. I hope all is well in your life. I would love to hear from my readers, to learn more about you, where you are, how you found my blog. Do my writings resonate, or do you find yourself asking "What is he going off about now?"

ANYWAY, Happy Winter Solstice. The true New Year.

Monday, December 18, 2006

One more try

I have had a few people tell me that my Home Page is too busy, and that it does not reflect anything about me.

So I decided to redo my web page again. Please surf over and tell me what you like, but more to my interests: what does not work or make sense in your mind.


I will think of something interesting to share soon

Sunday, December 17, 2006


Yesterday was the graduation ceremony for the Asian institute. It was a very nice ceremony where we took a moment to honor the students, their families and friends as well as the faculty.
It is an interesting place for me to watch these fine students step across the bridge, complete their formal education and enter into the working field of acupuncture.
I have come to respect each of the students. Each one is compassionate, talented, dedicated and inquisitive. I would be very happy to have any one of them treat my patients if I were unable.
I was also impressed by their families and friends; each person that I met and spoke to was very knowledgeable, supportive and excited for their friend/family member/partner.
I also had a moment afterwards to reflect on my own graduation. Last week I was sharing with one of the graduates that we both have one thing in common, our first degree was a Master's degree. Two major differences are that he is 20 years younger than I was, and his IQ is honestly 40-50 points higher; if I were to really stretch mine!!! His is well into the genius range, mine is not... LOL
But it is interesting to note how after school is when the depth of training actually increases. Because we are "on our own" essentially we have to keep our brains sharp and focused. It is that process that allows one to continue learning, long after we forget our classmates, or how long the school seemed to drag on for.
Way back in the day when I was teaching Tukong Moosul I told my students "My job is to make you better than I am." It is the same with teaching acupuncture, and with this group I may be approaching that goal.
That is wonderful.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Some you win, and Some you loose.

The presentation yesterday was interesting. I added one slide to the presentation after I posted it on my blog. That slide read:
The FIRST and hardest step is to QUESTION YOUR OWN ASSUMPTIONS. If you feel that the integration will not work, I am asking you to consider why you feel that way.

When I read that statement I had the distinct feeling that I was equivalent to being a Muslim in a church talking about Mohammed. To say that I felt unwelcome would be an understatement. OH WELL. Like I said going in to this, I had nothing to loose and I truly think this is a subject that needs to be addressed. Repeatedly if necessary.

On a brighter note.

A couple of weeks ago I had the pleasure of working with a 34 year old, very athletic woman that had injured her left knee. Her physician had told her that she had torn some ligaments and had to have orthoscopic surgery. She was waiting till January for the surgery, but she was smart and INSISTED on getting an MRI before surgery. She came to see me because of the pain. When I saw her, her pain was an 8-9 on that magical 1-10 scale. That is intense pain.

I gave her a treatment involving electrical micro-stimulation through the knee joint. We set up another appointment 2 weeks later just to try to help with the pain while she was waiting for the surgery.

A funny thing happened after the treatment. She had no pain. She got her MRI and her physician said "I don't know how I mis-diagnosed this one, but there is nothing wrong with your knee. At all"

Now, two weeks after her first treatment, she is 95+% painfree. Her knee has complete range-of-motion and is essentially pain free.

I wish it was always this simple and effective.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Am I crazy, or just shooting myself in the foot?

At the prompting of my sister, bless her heart, I am going to share this presentation I am giving to the University of Arizona’s Cancer Support Group. This is a group of doctors, social workers, nurses and research fellows that meet monthly to talk about all forms of cancer care and research. I was attending for over a year, trying to get my foot in the door. The U-of-A is building a new Cancer Hospital, and I want this to be an integrative hospital. Again I feel like I am pushing that glacier back up the hill.

I have heard from a fairly well placed individual that the individual that will be making the decision already has. He believes that acupuncture uses “dirty needles” and other such mis-perceptions. After 18 months I gave up and said “win some, loose some. I have other fish to fry” and went on with my adventures.
Last week I got an e-mail from the group saying they need a presenter for tomorrow. I explained my concerns and the doctor that I deal with (and is a proponent of integration) said “Why not address how to integrate the medicine in the Cancer center?” I said OK.

Below is a copy of my power-point presentation. I will bold the page headlines.

Peaceful Mountain Acupuncture
Traditional Medicine for a Modern World

Walking on Two Legs
Integrating Two Paradigms

“Integrating alternative strategies at the Cancer Center”

Michael Clifford
• Master of Science in Oriental Medicine
– Southwest Acupuncture College, Albq, NM
• Diplomat of Acupuncture (NCCAOM)
– National Commission for Certification in Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine
• Licensed Acupuncturist (AZ #240)
• Faculty: Instructor and Clinical Supervisor Asian Institute of Medical Studies

• Open a dialogue about how to integrate the two paradigms of medical treatment.
• Create an open forum where each system can support the work of the other system to create a synergistic treatment.

• Start an on-going discussion that is designed to support the patient in all phases of treatment.
– The root of our reasons for becoming doctors, nurses, etc is the desire to HELP our patients.
• Clearly state that each system has incredible power; my intention is to create a system where we can work together.

NCCAM.NIH.GOV• "The scientific evidence supporting use of electroacupuncture for relief of acute nausea following chemotherapy is very encouraging," said Marc Blackman, M.D., Director of NCCAM's Division of Intramural Research.

• Development of a Comprehensive, National Research Strategy for Complementary and Alternative Medicine
• Acknowledging the Growing Consumer Interest in CAM
• The establishment of NCCAM by the U.S. Congress was precipitated by a growing interest in CAM, and a common belief that various CAM therapies may play a role in improving health. In 1997, approximately 42 percent of U.S. healthcare consumers spent $27 billion on CAM therapies.

Another Perspective
• Only by holding CAM modalities to the highest standards of evidence will we best facilitate the creation of an integrated healthcare delivery system in which conventional physicians and CAM practitioners work as an interdisciplinary team.
• As the Prince of Wales commented in 1998, "This isn't a question of orthodox medicine taking over, or of complementary and alternative medicine diluting the intellectual rigor of orthodoxy. It is about reaching across the disciplines to help and to learn from one another for the ultimate benefit of the patients you all serve."

How widely is acupuncture used in the United States?
According to the 2002 National Health Interview Survey--the largest and most comprehensive survey of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) use by American adults to date--an estimated 8.2 million U.S. adults had ever used acupuncture, and an estimated 2.1 million U.S. adults had used acupuncture in the previous year.

How many trials have been done?• A quick search of NCCAM.NIH.GOV finds at least 46 clinical trials involving acupuncture.
• Google “Scholar” listed 2,780 papers
• A search for “chemotherapy, Chinese Herbal Medicine” listed 2,700 papers.

American Cancer Society
• Acupuncture May Ease Cancer Pain Study: Needles Helped When Drugs Failed
• 213 articles on their web site referencing acupuncture.

American Cancer Society
• There is some evidence from randomized clinical trials that some Chinese herbs may contribute to longer survival rates, reduction of side effects, and lower risk of recurrence for some cancers, especially when combined with conventional treatment.
• 31 articles mentioning chemotherapy and Chinese Herbal Medicine

Where do we go from here?• U-of-A is preparing to open the new Cancer Hospital.
• Start an ongoing discussion about how to integrate the two medical paradigms.
• What would that look like?
• Who needs to talk to who?
• How can anyone help get this moving?

“Do not settle for the comfort of opinion without first experiencing the discomfort of genuine thought.”
John F. Kennedy

The Next Step• Align
– We all want our patients to have the best treatment experience possible
• Agree
– With discussion we can learn how to integrate, how to evaluate and how to evolve our treatment plans
• Adjust
– Listen to one-another, ask questions. Do not accept the “status quo” Implement Change

An alternative Step
• Disagree
– By believing that this “new” idea is not worth trying without taking the time to truly investigate
• Defend
– Instead of personally speaking to a person that has a different idea directly, defend your idea behind their back, without risk
• Destroy
– The defense of an unexamined idea will destroy the possibility of creating a new workable idea

The Key• This, as so many things in our lives, is ALL ABOUT RELATIONSHIPS.
• Between medical paradigms
• Between Doctors, Nurses, Patients, Researchers, Acupuncturists, Patients Families
• Relationships are DYNAMIC, always changing and never static

I am not saying:• This is what has to happen
• This is the only way it can happen
• That it will be easy
• That there will not be HUGE challenges to face
• That it will make THE DIFFERENCE in every patient

I AM SAYING• This integration of medical paradigms can work
• This is “the next step” in many cases
• The potential benefit of trying this by far outweighs the risk of not trying it.
• We can each learn from one another, as well as from our patients

What do you want to happen?

My thoughts

Open a discussion with the group of individuals that has the power to make the decision to integrate CAM into the Cancer Center.
Create a way to integrate CAM at all levels of the treatment of cancer
We need to make this happen, but it cannot without your help and active participation

Michael Clifford
Licensed Acupuncturist