The importance of our senses!

With the holidays upon us, and with that often comes traveling – long hours spent in airports and on the road; I am reminded of the importance of our senses and why we need to practice not using our devices as much.  Okay, it’s not like I’m bossy or would ever tell you what to do but LISTEN UP (ha!).

You have an oculomotor system!!!  It’s super important!  I was driving around Pike Street today, and as usual, dodging pedestrians GLUED to their phones, their necks edged forward (you might be doing this right now at your computer trying to read this), eyes squinted, thumbs typing frantically, and not paying attention at all to anything around them except their phone.  Some even had headphones in AND were texting.  Recently there have been white silhouettes placed at crosswalks across the city where people have been hit by drivers (over 240 in the last year) – I imagine it is the fault of both pedestrians and drivers not being fully aware of their surroundings.

A person came to the clinic recently who was riding their bike and had to stop suddenly, flipped over their handlebars and broke several ribs.  Why?  Headphones.  These things are tiny foreign objects which block off one of your very important senses to interact with the world around you.  We have to train ourselves to use all of these senses, or we don’t!  And you lose that ability slowly over time with repetition.

Looking at your phone all day keeps your visual system/nervous system only focusing on a tiny screen, which means that our eyes are only paying attention to a tiny 4 by 4 monitor, and NOTHING else around it.  That means your organism stops interacting with its environment; you are training yourself to not be aware of things around you.  Whoa.  If you were conscious of this, would you continue doing it?

Sometimes as I’m writing to you, I’m sitting on the couch, half-writing, half-watching a movie, and I’ve realized over time how my capacity to focus on one thing has changed.  I have gotten so “good” at multitasking, that my performance on each task has depleted.  I have begun to work on isolating different tasks, so that I type on my computer for a while at the desk and shut off my phone, or put on a movie and leave other devices in the bedroom, essentially training myself to unlearn multitasking and stop being distracted by every text or the next thing.  I also almost never wear headphones anymore outside, and find it interesting how I now experience the world again.

There is a man who has walked by me on my street for years, almost the same time every day (around 3 PM) to go get a coffee at our local coffee shop.  I always see him taking photos of leaves and birds and yesterday he was just standing in front of this beautiful tree at the end of our street.  We often wave or nod, and I know what he is experiencing by being aware and open to sights and sounds and smells and other people.  It’s truly wonderful.

Now go get off your phone and experience some stuff!!  Wishing you love and happiness this Winter.

xo WitchDoc

Why we do what we do.

The last couple of months have been challenging, both emotionally and physically.  Grad school is definitely a marathon, you do the best you can day by day, and try your best to tell yourself why you are doing things.  I have always been a mover and a shaker; I like to get one project done and move on to the next (so satisfying!) but working on a skill like this really takes a lot of time and practice.  You may not necessarily want to think of all the practice hours your acupuncturist had to put in before they touch you and poke you with needles, but aren’t you glad they did?!  This medicine sometimes reminds me of when I began baking gluten-free goods.  I would try to make everything healthy – take out the sugar, add applesauce.  Take out the flour, add broccoli.  No eggs, make chia seed eggs.  Pretty soon all my sweet friends at every birthday party were wondering if I was going to bring some weird chocolate covered broccoli concoction that tasted… well, let’s be honest, like chocolate broccoli.  But now that I’ve had a few years of experience, my friend’s responses are going from, “Mmm, this tastes healthy,” to, “This is amazing!! What IS this?!”  It took a lot of broccoli cakes to get there.

So, back to my original topic.  A question I ask myself when I feel like I don’t know what the heck or why the heck I’m doing something is, am I doing it because it brings immediate joy?  No way man.  I would say that often I do things because the benefits come later, and it’s difficult to try and remind myself of that, but I need to in order to keep motivation.  I try not to do things because I feel like I should do them, but because I remind myself of the feeling that I know will come later if I am diligent and keep with the process.  Eventually, I began to enjoy the process too.  At one point it was something like, “eat veggies = tastes yucky = feel good”  to now “eat veggies = mmmmmm = feel good!”

With the state of the world right now, the huge amount of stress we put ourselves under as humans, practices such as these (yoga, walking, qi gong) are just constant reminders for us to come back to our body.  We create a quiet space in our day for peace and calm and to REWIRE ourselves.  Meditation, cooking, getting acupuncture, doing tai qi, walking your dog…there are so many ways to get there.  (Heck, even baking gluten-free cake!!  It might not taste as good as your “normal” cupcake, but you can guess that in an hour you won’t feel like crap if you make that decision now).

It’s also funny how we twist ourselves up all day, physically and mentally.  You realize when you’re sitting at work all day, you’re training yourself to stay in this hunched, crunched over position.  You realize that when you’re being negative about your state or talking poorly of your neighbor, that you’re spending all of your energy on that?  Eknath Eswaran said in Words to Live By:, “Destructive desires thrive on talk too; the more we talk about them, the stronger they get.”  The more energy you are putting in your body by external means, means that THAT stays in your body, mind and heart, and it takes just as much time to undo that as it does to do it.

Think about what you can do today for the elongation of feeling GOOD.  I mean, even walking takes practice – think of yourself as a baby, learning to crawl, learning to walk. Practicing that muscle, tendon & sinew memory over and over so that you can actually hold yourself up.

Now, how does this apply to acupuncture?  If you have just been in a car accident or traumatic event – your body is tense and frightened, all the nerves are shot, the sympathetic nervous system – fight or flight – is in full mode.  How can we deprogram this?  With acupuncture, we are using needles to send signals to the body that say, “Hey, everything’s okay, you can relax now.”  After you do that enough times (sometimes even once) the body responds and starts to reprogram itself.  That is why acupuncture can treat SO many different kinds of things: digestive issues, trauma, burns, acne, depression, anxiety, pain, dizziness, and so much more.

As far as these other practices go – yoga, Qi Gong and walking for me in particular – I do these because they help me to deprogram from so many things that I get knotted up over during the day.  From sitting too long, from driving too much, from hearing too many bad things on the news and not breathing enough, to stress.  When I feel overwhelmed and don’t want to do them, I remind myself of why I’m doing them, to reap the goodness I feel physically and emotionally, to send that energy out into my community that hopefully emanates peace and love.  I practice for myself and for you!  I challenge you to do the same.

xo, WD

 

On elders, on teachers.

This week my grandmother passed away, and of course I thought of the past and our experiences together as I was growing up.  She was my first exposure to plants – although she wasn’t an herbalist, she had a great affinity for flowers and being out in the garden, rain or shine.  She was always so quiet sitting with them; she tended to them every day and called them her babies.  I still do the same thing.

Right before she passed, I had watched this documentary on the herbalist Juliette de Bairacli Levy called Juliette of the Herbs, something about her oddly reminded me of my grandmother – even though my own was not so educated, there was still so much she gave me through her presence, similarly to Juliette.  Juliette was a teacher to one of my teachers and she pioneered some of the first veterinary herbal medicine literature.  She is truly an inspiration and a legend in the herbal community.

If you have a little time, this is a sweet documentary about this gypsy woman’s life – it reminds me of reconnecting with simple living but with an adventurous spirit and the importance of our connections to the plants that surround us and how they can heal us.  It is worth the thought – who and what are you learning from?  Taping into the deep wisdom of our elders, and the nature around us is imminently important in this world now where technology rules our lives.

To Juliette, who passed away in 2009, thank you for your teachings and that so many years later, we still continue to learn from you.  To my grandmother, who taught me the importance of a listening heart, rest in peace.

http://www.cultureunplugged.com/documentary/watch-online/play/8638/Juliette-of-the-Herbs

Ritual in the New Year.

Another year has rolled around and, like many, I’m thinking of what is to come and the word “ritual” keeps coming to mind.  Not just in light of the New Year, but often I am contemplating how I can shape things differently in my life to allow for more growth and positive change.  Daily rituals are one way that I have found helpful to do that.  A lot of you may wake up every morning, make coffee, and dredge around the house waiting for the caffeine surge to pry your eyes open.  Come on, I’m from Seattle, I also love coffee!  But living in Asia for years also made me acquire a taste for tea.

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In Chinese, gong fu cha, literally “kung fu tea”, is a term used to describe a way of making tea in ceremony, with “great skill” as some would call it.  It’s kind of like wine tasting – you may sit down at someone’s house, or their tea shop, and they will bring out a nice oolong or pu-erh, and begin the ritual of rinsing the tea, pouring it into your cup and then pouring theirs.  Your cup is tiny, smaller than a shot glass, and you drink the tea in this way – one tiny cup at a time, enjoying conversation with your host as they keep refilling your cup, possibly trying out different teas over the course of an hour or so.  This type of ritual tea drinking, to me at least, is about sitting, being present, sharing stories, and enjoying small pleasures in life.  Sometimes in the morning, I’ll swap out my coffee and sit and make some tea in this way to enjoy the morning by listening to the quiet and enjoying the flavors of the tea (Rich, earthy pu-erhs are my favorite, and then roasted teas like Dong Ding oolong.  I really also love a simple Tie Guan Yin or Bao Zhong.  High Mountain (or Gao Shan) oolongs are also amazing and clean.)

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On the topic of health, tea has a lot of great health benefits (antioxidant-rich, may aid in lowering cholesterol, weight loss – the list is long!), and I believe pure teas like greens, oolongs and pu-erh, have a way of cleansing the palate and digestive system in a way that other beverages do not.  You’ll feel a tea “high” sometimes while you’re drinking these types of teas, because your body has been hydrated and nourished.

What I’m suggesting to you in this new year, that you look at one thing that you can sit and enjoy and be present in.  As Thich Nhat Hanh says, “Drink your tea slowly and reverently, as if it is the axis on which the world earth revolves – slowly, evenly, without rushing toward the future.”  What can you do to start off your year that might be a new ritual?  Something nourishing, and soul-enriching, that doesn’t make you feel rushed, but grounds you and makes you feel good.  Maybe instead of rushing into this year and thinking of all the things to take away, think about what is already there or something you can add to enrich it further.  More good stuff, less bad stuff (as my yoga teacher used to say)!

If you have interest in learning more about tea, or doing some tastings in Seattle, you could try Teahouse Kuanyin in Wallingford – they have every kind of tea you can think of and often have tastings.  Floating Leaves in Ballard also does tastings of Taiwanese oolongs, and Miro tea in Ballard has a great selection as well.

To health in 2016!  xo, WD Renzetti

When life throws one at you – Going back to Wellness principles.

You know the saying, “When life throws you lemons…” and your clever friends answer, “Screw the lemons and bail!” or “Add some vodka and let’s party!”  Well, I got some lemons this month, and it snowballed.  I had some pretty low days and couldn’t even call my friends to talk about it.  Let’s be real: relationship issues, family, body pains – and acupuncture school is no joke.  When I get home from a 9-hour day of dealing with patients, sitting on my butt listening to lectures for hours, I have to come home and take care of myself and do more work.  My wrists were jammed for the last month while I was doing massage and teaching yoga – I was advised to stop practicing and teaching.  I sunk – I need yoga to function.  It reminded me of years ago when I was unable to sit or walk because I had so much back pain, or a decade ago when I could barely walk after the arches in my feet collapsed.  I became pretty depressed at that point because my body couldn’t do what I needed it to do.

I couldn’t admit all of the things piled in my life were causing all of this.  Stress on stress on stress, regardless if you’re recognizing how much weight you’ve piled on, will catch up with you quickly.  So what do I do?  It used to take me a long time to get out of these funks, and it’s still not easy, but it happens a lot faster now and I bounce back much more quickly: I go back to my wellness principles.  I think about the most BASIC things I can do in my life to bring about better balance, and I focus on those things.

Now I’m not talking about going on a juice-fast, or leaving for a 10-day meditation retreat, signing myself for a 30-day yoga practice at a studio, not drinking ‘til New Years – I’m talking about EASY.  I’m talking like, go drink a glass of water.  Go to sleep an extra hour early.  Take a bath instead of going out to a bar for a drink.  Watching a movie and crying and making myself a well-balanced meal.  When things get bad, I do basic things, and I do them one at a time so that it’s doable.  ‘Cause you’re bound to fail if you set this thing up for yourself that is unreachable.

My wellness principles came about as a post-New Years practice that I wanted to engage in for 100 days.  Did I do all of them for the full time?  Nope!  And that’s okay.  I just kept going back to the basics each day and starting over.

Ask yourself some questions to get your own list:

  • What can I do to support myself daily? What are my wellness principles?Think about when you start to feel low – what do you do?  Go dancing, run, scream into a pillow, eat a pint of ice cream, listen to really loud music… Write them down.
  • Of those things, what SUPPORT you and bring you closer to your goals and make you feel good.  Like when I drink a little less caffeine, my hands don’t shake as much when I am in clinic touching and needling patients.  My brain doesn’t feel as scattered – I am more centered.

My basic wellness principles are these:

  • Chew my food. When I sit down to eat, I try to focus on what I’m eating, breathe, chew.  Not a lot of extra noise, t.v., radio.
  • Drink water and tea all day long. When I start to feel out of balance and tired, I drink less coffee and hydrate myself.  Wake up and have a glass, drink in between meals.  (I’m a huge tea nerd, I’ll post on that later.)21
  • Sleep by 10 or so. I try to wind down a bit earlier, turn off all devices and allow my body to be in darkness and rest.  This was a hard one – I was always a night owl, but I feel so
    much better when I get in bed before 10 now.
  • Eat whole foods. Nothing processed.  Grains, legumes, vegetables, fruits, sea vegetables, meat, broth.  Things that nurture my body and have no extra junk.
  • Do the opposite of what I’m craving to do – if I’m exhausted, sometimes I’ll make myself go for a walk or exercise, because I know I’ll feel better afterwards.  Instead of eating that ice cream bar, I’ll make a bowl of miso soup.  It’s oddly satisfying!

And the last important bit: Why??  Why do this in the first place?  Because I feel more clarity throughout my day.  There is more room in my life for the good stuff.  When I see patients, they know that I am doing my best to live healthy and happy and that makes me feel good – that is my goal.  I feel like I’m on a path that serves something larger than myself.  Winning.

(Photo credit: Meghann Wiedl.  Me pouring some delicious Baozhong oolong from Taiwan)

“The Danger of the Single Story”

SO INSPIRED today.  It was my first day back to school.  My second year of acupuncture school!  And now, onward to bigger and better things, like MORE CLINIC SHIFTS!  Days like today, after I saw my patient this morning and she seemed so much more comfortable and at ease after our treatment, that I am reminded why I am doing what I am doing.  That everything in my life has led up to this and if I can put someone just an inch more at ease than they were when they walked into the room, I feel like I have done something right.  I feel so grateful.

Today one of my teachers showed us a Ted Talk called, “The Danger of the Single Story”.  The whole time I’m thinking WOW, this woman is on fire!  She so eloquently states this idea of how we lessen our possibilities of greater happiness and understanding of the world because our thinking can be so narrow.  I often hear from family, friends, clients something that resembles this ‘single story’ idea – we get caught up in our stories of what we believe is Truth, sometimes they are about physical or emotional pain, maybe stereotypes we have of others, or insecurities we have about ourselves.  For example, if you struggle with feelings of sadness or unworthiness and you keep telling yourself, “I cannot overcome this.  This is who I am; what I am.”  The truth is, this is only a piece of you, not ALL of you.

Another example could be a physical ailment that is very consuming in your life.  Your doctor has prescribed you with “X” and so you get prescription “Y” to cure it.  Everything you do revolves around this disease – how you relate to people and how you function in the world.  How you eat and sleep.  But this doesn’t have to be all to it.

The danger of this “single story” idea is that we tell ourselves that this idea is the way that it is, nothing will change, we will not move forward or heal.  But what if you expanded your way of thinking?  Chimamanda says that these single stories are just part of the story, and that there is often so much more that we are refusing to see.  When this single story becomes your ONLY story, then you are missing out on the greatness that can be.

Please watch and I give you permission to stand up and applaud afterward.  I pretty much did.