For Pamela Gregg Flax, a New Mexico-based practitioner and student in AOMA’s new doctoral program, the efficacy and magic of Chinese medicine have never been a question. Chinese medicine has been her primary form of healthcare for 25 years -- but her decision to become a practitioner came as a surprise, even to her.
Early in her career, she worked in the arts and in environmental philanthropy in Los Angeles. Pamela moved to Santa Fe to marry the man who is now her husband and began learning a healing form called Sat Nam Rasayan (SNR). SNR is a meditative technique described as a traditional healing based on self-consciousness alone. This healing tradition is a ‘familiar’ to Craniosacral Therapy, but comes from the lineage of Kundalini yoga.
“I thought that my interest in SNR was to improve my meditation skills, but I discovered a love of healing,” Pamela says.
On a trip back to LA, Pamela told her acupuncturists that she wished she could do what they do. They encouraged her, and that was all it took—she was in school for her master’s degree in Chinese medicine a few weeks later. “The art of Chinese medicine still speaks to my core, as its subtle power and poetry continue to amaze, delight, and humble me,” she says.
Pamela describes her path to AOMA as “intuitive and visceral.” After she completed her master’s degree program in New Mexico, she enrolled in two year-long continuing education programs. However, something wasn’t right about the decision.
“The plumbing started leaking in my office and home, and I could feel a weird tremor in my body, like I was jittery or resisting the force of a fast off-camber turn on my bicycle,” she says. “As soon as I accepted that I was headed in the wrong direction and withdrew from the classes, the tremor vanished and the leaks stopped. I was disappointed, but took heart in knowing that a strong current was moving me forward, albeit in an unknown direction.”
A couple of months later, Pamela started studying pulse diagnosis with Dr. William Morris. When she asked him about AOMA’s new doctoral program, he said, “The first cohort starts on Wednesday. What do you want to know?” and she felt that moment of recognition, an inexorable pull of destiny, that the path of her life would now shift in an unexpected yet welcome way. She expects to graduate from AOMA’s doctoral program in 2015. Her initial research topic – How Chinese Medicine Can Intervene in Multigenerational Trauma – is changing her practice.
“I feel lucky to be at AOMA at this point in my career because it’s re-shaping me and my practice in the most unexpected ways. My query has led me to the field of Oriental Reproductive Medicine. Philosophically and practically I’m exploring the role that creativity plays in a vibrant life. I’m studying for the ABORM certification, connecting with Santa Fe birthing centers, and treating pregnant women. I love my work more than ever.” Pamela says. “And I love AOMA. It’s a strong institution with excellent resources: a ‘deep bench’ of teachers and fellow doctoral students, a stellar herbal pharmacy, and great leadership. Dr. Morris and Dr. Finnell have developed a DAOM program that has the potential to help move integrative medicine and medical inquiry forward with integrity, and I’m glad to be part of it.”
Outside of AOMA, Pamela has a new practice at her own clinic, Full Well Acupuncture, which she spends a considerable amount of time cultivating. She’s not only a former competitive cyclist, Kundalini yoga teacher, and Qigong practitioner – she’s also an artist who especially loves visual arts, theatre/performance, architecture and design. Her husband is an actor and director who runs a theater company in Santa Fe, so Pam calls herself a “theater wife/widow.”
“We try to keep up with our old adobe house and resuscitate our land,” she says. “Now that I’m attending school in the land of music and everyone in Austin plays at least one instrument, I’m trying learning to play a recorder. I’m kind of terrible but having fun, and I’m getting ready to order a Chinese flute called the bawu.”
One of Pamela’s proudest achievements since she started studying Chinese medicine is making a believer out of her husband.
“He hates receiving acupuncture but insisted that I treat his last good knee after he tore his meniscus,” Pamela says. “He feels that the treatments helped heal his knee and prevented imminent surgery, and I’m thrilled to report that he is finally able to relax when he has acupuncture.”
Pamela is also very pleased to have helped a woman with a high-risk pregnancy go full term and have a healthy baby. She also enjoyed helping people avoid joint replacement surgeries and lumbar fusions, arrest the development of macular degeneration and begin a reversal process, heal or manage a new life with traumatic brain injuries, and feel some peace in transforming old emotional pain.
That’s not to say there haven’t been some challenges along her path.
Pamela and her mentor thought that they would go into practice after she graduated from her master’s degree program, but after visiting China, Pam felt moved to practice differently and knew that their paths would diverge. Telling him was painful for both of them, but – “acquiescing to truth is liberating,” she says. “I had to trust my instincts.”
Pamela loves the poetry and metaphor inherent in the theory of Chinese medicine and the way that the medicine seems to reveal more and more according to the depth of the practitioner. She is also deeply appreciative of “the focus on continual cultivation of the human spirit of the practitioner and the patient; and its simultaneous complexity and simplicity.”
“Years ago I vowed to live my life out of love and not fear,” Pamela says. ”I love this medicine. Thank you to everyone at AOMA for moving so dynamically and with such kindness to join my river with yours.”
Her advice to other students?
“Enjoy the journey. Trust the medicine. Trust yourself.”
A visitor to the AOMA campus and clinics may notice the beautiful art that graces many hallways and rooms. Most of these striking images were created by Dr. Jing Nuan Wu, and donated by a current AOMA student who was also a student of Dr. Wu’s.
Jing Nuan Wu (1933-2002) was an artist and acupuncturist who practiced in the Washington, DC area for thirty years. Wu considered his art an extension of his healing practice and a new medium for the application of the theories of Traditional Chinese Medicine. Inspired by the Wu Xing (Five Phases), an ancient Taoist theory concerning the balancing powers of color and imagery, Wu created paintings and sculptures to promote individual and collective healing. His work became a form of “visual acupuncture”.
Dr. Wu’s art is a new medium for the application of the theories of Traditional Chinese Medicine. As early as the first medical literature in China, which is 4,000 years ago, there is the idea that taste, sound, color and imagery can be used to promote healing or “getting into harmony”. Inspired by this idea, Dr. Wu creates paintings and sculpture to promote individual and collective healing. His art is a tool for accessing the multiple inner realms and deep connections of our own body, mind and spirit. The healing colors and images help us adjust to the energy and workings of the external world.
“I attempt with my art to change the clockwork of our inner being to the most
beneficial and health inducing rhythm. When reset and unburdened from the tics of
anxiety and social pressure, one’s being enters a calm field where new patterns of
behavior can develop and take hold within. These quiet inner fields are my
new medical country and my artwork is the way of passage.”
Of major significance in his paintings and sculpture is the yin and yang duality of all things in existence. A sense of balance must bind contrasting opposites or their dynamic relationship will be disrupted. Likewise, harmony in an individual must be maintained for health to be maintained. Rather than vanquishing illness, the goal of Chinese medicine is to foster the balance necessary for permanent health within the context of constant change that is the world. If one does not work internally and externally with the forces of life, illness will occur.
Before he died Dr. Wu requested that his art be displayed in healing spaces. The original canvas of The Hidden Cure is on permanent loan to the National Institutes of Health. The AOMA student who gifted these prints to AOMA knows Dr. Wu would be happy to have his artwork within a Chinese medicine school and clinics.
Here is a virtual tour of the artwork and their locations at AOMA.
Location: South Clinic
Chiron’s Fee was inspired by a dream vision. This painting honors two great healers, one from China and one from Greece. The central image of a coin blends symbols from the East and the West and represents the fusion of heaven and earth. The intent is that the possessor of this image will always have the provisions for medical care.
THREE CINNABAR FIELDS
Chinese medicine holds that there are three forces that interact in a continuing dynamic. Externally these forces are heaven, man and earth represented by the bands of purple (also associated with the brain), red (also associated with the heart) and gold (also associated with the stomach). A multi-colored circle of qi - the energy that flows through everything in the universe - links the three forces together. When they resonate in harmony and the qi is free-flowing and balanced, health is predominant. When they are in disharmony and the qi is unbalanced, illness occurs.
A DIALOGUE IN THE MOUNTAINS
Location: Mind-Body Center
This painting was inspired by the poetry of the Ancient Chinese Philosopher, Li Po.
You ask me why I live among the green mountains?
I laugh and answer not – my heart is at peace.
Like the peach blossoms in yonder brook, I flow away calmly...
‘Tis another sky and earth, not the world of man.
HEALING WATER AND THE ICE DRAGONS
Location: South Clinic
Water, associated with dragons in Chinese theory, is the most magical substance on earth. In its softest state it can overcome the hardest metal. This painting is a reminder of the transformative powers of an element that is the largest part of us.
JADE EMPEROR’S COSMIC FLOWERS
Location: South Clinic
The ancient Chinese pictograph for emperor was the flower; a divine creation nurtured by the perfect balance of heaven, earth, sun and water. The different colors symbolize the cosmic spectrum within which all life is sustained.
Bright green represents the restoring powers of spring to renew the body and its energies. After a tiring lecture, a long day at the office, a drive on a busy highway or an illness, meditating on the color green, like the simple act of walking on a green lawn, or watching and listening to the leaves of trees stimulates the body to a sense of restored vitality and wholeness.
MOON IN DREAMS
Location: Building E
In Chinese philosophy, human beings are intimately connected with the moon. This galactic landscape, outside the boundaries of the known, where possibilities expand and miracles happen, represents the divine universe within each of us.
Location: South Clinic
A visual interpretation of Notoginseng, one of the most important and mysterious herbs in Chinese medicine used to treat physical trauma and blood disorders.
THE RED PHOENIX
Location: Building B
This print was inspired by the ancient legend of the phoenix. It is meant to evoke the powerful dynamic of rebirth and magical transformation. In Daoist Shamanic rituals, red is used to benefit sadness and isolation as well as troubles with the heart or small intestine.
THE HIDDEN CURE
Location: Building D & North Clinic
This painting is part of a series of images meant for use in combination with meditation to create balance and good health. Beneath the amber mask of polyurethane and gold spray is an ancient Taoist talisman for healing. It symbolizes the enormous power we all have within us to generate our own harmony and well-being. Blue is a color that can be used especially in combination with meditation to reveal the inner qualities of our being. It is associated with calm and strength, and helps to dispel worry and fear.
BLUE MOUNTAINS AND DRAGONS
Location: North Clinic
In Chinese philosophy, mountains in the highest places in the natural world, symbolize heaven. The heavens are inhabited by the dragons of rain which, when collected at the base of the mountains, form vapors that fly back up to the top of the mountains. This free-flowing cycle evokes the interconnected nature of all things that, when kept in harmony, promotes good health and well-being.
First, I’ll tell you that 18 months ago I was established in a career while yearning to go back to school, expand my life practices, and further devote myself to meaningful professional change. Now, a current student at AOMA, I just finished my 5th term. At no point have I looked back, although I never would have predicted my life would take this path. In 2002, I graduated from college with a bachelor’s degree in English that included extensive studies in calculus and Flemish art history. I felt like the prototype of liberal arts major, qualified for everything in general but nothing in particular—or so I told myself.
When I first thought about studying Traditional Chinese Medicine
It was 9 years ago when I first thought about studying Traditional Chinese Medicine. The thought lasted about 5 minutes, extinguished when I recalled that my science background consisted of contrasting types of volcanoes in my undergraduate geology class. I was intimidated by the natural science component included in acupuncture & Chinese medicine programs. My extensive knowledge of Renaissance poetry, for all its complexity, would not help me differentiate tendons in the wrist. My essays on the ethics of historical scholarship would not equip me to understand how a virus invaded the body. And somehow enrolling in the local community college at night to get my science prerequisites just to apply to a Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) program seemed too daunting. At the time, it simply wouldn’t fit into my life, so I gave up hopes of being an acupuncturist.
For the next decade my career progressed in education business management and then teaching special education in public schools. While in these positions, I truly felt that I helped heal children as I taught. No matter what I did, I was a healer at heart. The nagging thought of practicing TCM returned. Finally, I visited AOMA’s website.
That’s when I realized that everything I believed for those nine years was wrong.
Reviewing the admissions requirements for the Master of Acupuncture & Oriental Medicine program showed me I did qualify to apply despite my limited natural science background. I realized the graduate program included all of the western medicine courses I thought I would need to complete in advance.
After looking on the school’s website, I scheduled a tour of the campus and talked to some current students. Within a few days I realized that this was the real thing, and I could do it. In fact, the liberal arts major in me realized that I could make a darn fine TCM student.
Discovering the Human Body
The biomedical sciences curriculum at AOMA is delivered by experienced instructors who have insight into anatomy and pathology that is particularly relevant to an acupuncturist. Dr. Joel Cone, who I met in my first week at AOMA, knew I needed encouragement and was very helpful.
My first term within the master’s program, I started taking anatomy and physiology. The biomedicine series continued and I took microbiology and pathophysiology. I spent a full year diving into the human body, the muscles, bones, organ systems, and microorganisms inside and outside of us. I began to walk around looking at everyone, imagining I could see the sinews and tendons underneath their skin moving in a choreographed dance as they walked. After that first year, I felt as though I had developed a magical power to see through skin to inspect everything on the inside. When my throat and lungs got irritated in in the winter, I imagined the tissues trying to expel pathogens rather than thinking about getting sick. The human body came to life as an amazing machine, and I experienced it as a new piece of scientific art that I inhabited.
Don’t get me wrong, every acupuncture student and practitioner must be able to name the tendons in the wrist and understand how a virus invades the body—along with all the bones, muscles, blood constituents, and more. This biomedical background is essential to a Chinese medicine practitioner who must know how to communicate with and build a treatment plan for patients with biomedical diagnoses. However, TCM is made of the desire to heal as much as the knowledge of science. I’ve tried to put my finger on that “thing” that drew me to this field of study and practice. Sure, it was easy to say that I wanted to help people, that it gave me a sense of satisfaction to help those who are sick feel better. But there is also something else. I had previously studied literature and art and TCM fit into an amazing framework of culture and philosophy that I found exciting at an academic and personal level. My knowledge of this framework in a more abstract unscientific view helped me see TCM embedded as a cultural orientation that fit my spirit.
With my liberal arts background, I realized I simply and beautifully had even more to integrate into my journey as a healer.
About Kate Wetzel:
Kate is a graduate student within AOMA’s Master of Acupuncture & Oriental Medicine program. Prior to beginning her studies in acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine she completed a BA in English at Trinity University and worked as special education teacher for the Austin Independent School District.
Isabelle Chen-Angliker, a pediatrician from Switzerland, was never fully satisfied with the Western medical approach. She did not agree with the method of funneling patients into an increasingly sub-specialized medical system. She was concerned with the discrepancy of more sophisticated diagnostics vs. the lack of treatment options that are both minimally invasive and without significant side effects.
Isabelle was always looking for more holistic and integrative healing modalities, but there was not much complementary training available in Switzerland at the time she went through medical school except for homeopathy and manual therapy: “Even chiropractors got their training in the U.S.,” she said.
When Isabelle moved to Austin in 2008, she began taking her daughter -- then just 18 months old -- to Heartsong Music, a music school located near AOMA’s former campus in north Austin. In this process she also began admiring AOMA next door and dreaming of studying Oriental medicine herself. In 2009 she went through Hatha Yoga teacher training, which to her served as a “baby step” before entering the AOMA graduate program. In 2010 she began searching for alternative treatments for her young son with ADHD and Asperger’s syndrome, which inspired her to finally enroll in AOMA’s Master of Acupuncture & Oriental Medicine program.
As Isabelle nears graduation, she has finally found a style of medicine that deeply resonates with her. What especially appeals to her about Chinese medicine’s integrative and holistic perspective on healing is its individualized treatment approach tailored to the needs of patients and its applications and modifications involving art and intuition. Isabelle loves that the practitioner-patient relationship in Chinese medicine is “a give and take rather than consumer or hierarchy oriented relationship” -- and gone are her concerns about the invasive treatments of Western medicine. Chinese medicine is all about “Doing NO harm, and providing an effective yet pleasant and relaxing treatment,” she said.
Through her path to becoming a practitioner of Chinese medicine, Isabelle has learned to make mistakes and be patient with herself -- that it’s okay to not be perfect. For Isabelle, these are important achievements in light of the courage it took for her to return to school after years in a different field of medicine. Through this process, she has overcome her fear of failure, while also conquering a language barrier and culture shock.
Outside of her busy career and studies, Isabelle leads a very full and happy life as mother of two children: Lenny, 11 years old and Celia, 6 1/2 years old. She spends her free time volunteering at her children’s school, taking them to music, piano and ballet lessons as well as on field trips to places such as Enchanted Rock and parks around the city. She also loves to swim, do yoga, craft, read, play music and dance, and hopes to one day mastermind an herbal and vegetable garden like her grandmother’s.
Some of Isabelle’s greatest achievements during her time at AOMA include reports from her returning patients’ about the improvement in their health issues and stress management; her own lifestyle changes and increase in mind-body awareness; and inspiring her patients to embark on their own journeys seeking health and happiness through her sharing of passions for healthy food, movement, and nature.
Of course, like any graduate student in a medical program, she has faced many challenges as well. These include scheduling conflicts with her two children and busy husband, performance anxiety, and learning to pace herself.
Isabelle has worked steadily to overcome these by planning ahead, constantly refining her organizational skills, and avoiding procrastination. She also cites the importance of reflecting and pausing, revisiting her original call to go back to school, and always striving to see the big picture. “Treating patients is rewarding, encouraging and my main motivator even when I feel stuck, drained, exhausted or overwhelmed,” she said.
When asked what advice she would give to other students, she had a lot of insight to share:
Get regular acupuncture treatments yourself -- even before starting the program
Plan well, practice plenty of self-care and take breaks to avoid burnout
Find balance and keep mind and body connected
Communicate concerns and challenges: Follow a “problem meets solution” strategy
Correspond with student peers and share ups and downs with friends and family.
And as for the most transformational experiences she has had since starting on the path of Chinese medicine? “Feeling the instant benefits of acupuncture on my own mind and body -- the powerful effect of the needles as well as immediate and long term benefits of Chinese herbs,” she said. “I love when patients give me that look of ‘What did you just do to me?’ or say ‘I feel so relaxed,’ ‘I feel so much better,’ ‘My pain is almost gone,’ or just give a big sigh of relief.”
My journey began in 2009. Four years later, and I am just about wrapping up my experience at AOMA. It has definitely been a long haul, and I have changed a lot along the way. When I started the master of acupuncture and Oriental Medicine program, I was only 23 years old. I was frustrated about healthcare and the state of American medicine, and I had decided to take the first step along a path that would lead me to greater understanding of not just medicine, but the entire body-mind-spirt axis of the human condition. Some aspects of my personal growth were not connected to AOMA, but just a natural progression I would have followed regardless of my education. However, there were undoubtedly parts of my AOMA education that have changed me forever.
Part of the transformation has been simply learning alternative theories of the human form. Trained as a molecular biologist, I had only been taught the materialistic theories of the body. Organisms are made of organs, are made of tissues, are made of cells, are made of organelles, are made of macromolecules, are made of atoms, are made of quarks and subatomic particles. These theories just dissect the physical body ad infinitum without any consideration that there might be more. The energetic theories of yin and yang, of the meridians, and of the zang fu have perfectly complemented all my scientific knowledge. Whether physical or energetic, I now have a way of analyzing whatever phenomenon appears. Attempting to integrate the two types of theory is going to take a long time, but in the end the holistic theory that emerges will be a double-edged sword that can cut to the bottom of an issue quickly.
The qigong components of the program have also greatly impacted my perspective on life. It’s one thing to intellectually learn the energetic theories of the body, but it’s another to actually feel the energy moving up and down the meridians or drawing energy into and pushing it out of your body. If there was ever any proof needed for the existence of a world beyond the physical, my experience with medical qigong at AOMA has provided it. I had an inkling back in my Massachusetts days when I was exploring Tibetan Buddhism, just a few meditative experiences that pointed to a non-physical realm. Medical qigong totally sealed the deal. Clinically, I noticed that my patients who received medical qigong felt as if they got more out of the treatments. In addition, several patients who received only medical qigong were absolutely stunned by their experience, as if they were floating, for instance.
Community & Leadership
Another core pillar of my experience at AOMA was the AOMA Student Association (ASA). At first, I just went to a few meetings here and there. At the time there were 4-6 people at each meeting. When I later ran for Vice-President of the ASA, I was experiencing a particular surge of confidence in myself and my abilities. Although I ran unopposed, I was proud because it was the first office I held for any association since high school. By the time I became ASA President, the average size of the meetings had grown to 12-15, and members were becoming a lot more active. I really enjoyed seeing the organizational growth that we had stimulated. The shining achievement of the ASA during my term as President was the Advancing Integrative Medicine at AOMA event. We brought together over 80 students and alumni for a full day of free lectures by well-known speakers in the field, some of which even offered CEUs! I was super proud of this event, and it has shown me that I can accomplish anything I put my mind to.
What goes without saying is that I have found acupuncture and herbal medicine to be very effective. A bit silly to express it in such simple terms, but there are still a lot of people in our culture who are either on the fence or completely close-minded about acupuncture. My overall experience in the student clinic was undeniably positive. I have seen so many patients come through our doors at AOMA, and almost all of them leave satisfied with their treatment.
I have finished the program with the confidence and determination to improve the standing of Chinese medicine in our culture. Integrating all the various alternative and mainstream modalities of American medicine is my life goal, and the direction in which I will be focusing all my attention post-graduation. Already in the works, I am helping organize Austin’s first integrative health workers cooperative. It’s going to be a lot of difficult, ground-breaking work, but in the end it is the only way that I want to practice medicine. Just as my perspective on life has become more dynamic and capable of understanding new phenomena, the integration of Western and Eastern modalities will make the practice of medicine as a whole much stronger.
About David Taylor, LAc
David studied neuroscience and psychology at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. After graduating magna cum laude in 2008, he worked at the UMass Medical School performing molecular immunology research. Wishing to study medicine, but not be dependent on pharmaceuticals for his practice, David decided to study acupuncture & Chinese medicine. He graduated from AOMA Graduate School of Integrative Medicine in May 2013, and received his acupuncture license in September 2013. He currently practices in Austin, Texas.
Having studied both Western science and Eastern medicine, David has a unique view of the human body, and in particular the human psyche. Eastern philosophy points to a hidden, yet tangible, force to explain the workings of the body, while Western medicine only accepts that which is visible and measurable. The two perspectives almost always have different explanations for the same phenomenon, yet drawing lines between the two often creates a richer understanding of the problem. In this way, a fusion of the two perspectives allows for an extremely versatile approach to medicine.
David's website - Modern Muck Acupuncture
It’s 1976, and my mom and dad are sitting quietly with their eyes closed, hands resting upward — thumb and index finger touching — while my younger siblings crawl on their backs and shoulders. My older two brothers and I sit nearby, holding our own meditation poses, bored, rolling our eyes and counting the minutes until this ritual will end.
At least once a week or whenever things got stressful, my parents would pull all five of their children — ranging in age from ten to one — into our library for a family meditation. As much as I complained, a part of me yearned for this spiritual practice.
Spiritual renewal is essential to our emotional well-being. It helps us nurture our essence, feel centered, build inner strength, live in integrity, and trust life. It allows us to experience a connection to a higher power, feel a sense of purpose, and experience meaning in our lives.
There are many different ways we explore and nurture our spiritual lives. For some this includes spending time in nature, yoga, prayer and meditation, or musical or artistic expression. Some of the daily practices that provide me spiritual nourishment include:
We all crave sacredness and ritual in our everyday lives — not just around birthdays and weddings. Rituals can be both carefully planned events and casual but regular remembrances such as voicing gratitude before a meal or creating dedicated space in your day for contemplation.
When we mark important transitions or milestones in our lives — whether it’s your daughter’s first period or your son starting kindergarten — we connect to the sacredness of everyday life. We remember that life is mysterious and we’re more than our to-do lists!
Stillness, whether experienced through prayer, meditation, or reflection, is our time to be alone and connect to our inner wisdom or our higher power — what I call our internal GPS system. It’s essential for all of us to carve out time for quiet reflection each and every day.
One of the biggest gifts I’ve received from a daily meditation practice is the ability to live more comfortably with what is--whether that’s my husband’s recent layoff or a car accident. Life is like the weather in Texas — constantly changing. Meditation has helped anchor me, so that despite this impermanence and turmoil, I’ve learned how to be still and find my center in the face of it all.
Practicing Service to Others
Mother Teresa says, “The fruit of love is service.”
We are all interconnected. The more we reach out and are present to one another’s pain and suffering, the stronger we become and the easier it is to embrace the esoteric idea that we’re all one. I believe huge shifts in consciousness can occur when we reach out and help one another navigate this sometimes scary, often isolating and perplexing, but beautiful world. Sometime that might look like serving soup at your local homeless shelter and other times, it’s helping out your neighbor who just lost her husband.
Living in the Present
Many great spiritual teachers believe the answer to everything is to just “be here now,” and that our suffering and emotional distress would end if we simply stopped resisting the present moment.
One weekend as I sat on the couch with a full-body cold: a splitting headache, body chills and a nonstop runny nose, I thought about this principle. And, as I watched the things I was missing fly out the window — my friend’s birthday party, my son’s piano recital — I connected to my breath and felt myself arrive in the present moment. I sensed my resistance begin to dissipate and a feeling of peace slowly settled over me. I temporarily suspended my desire for things to be different and I embraced that on the couch, with a cold, was exactly where I was supposed to be.
Three of my immediate family members died unexpectedly between my twenty-sixth and thirty-fourth birthdays. For years I let those losses dictate how much and how often, I could experience joy. Anytime I started to feel light, free, or happy, the old feeling of “waiting for the other shoe to drop” would creep in.
Can you only be happy if things are going your way and all the stars are aligned in your favor?
I believe we’re born with the innate capacity to experience emotional well-being and joy; it’s our birthright to feel good. Happiness comes from within; we’re wired for it. We just have to remember to choose this moment to moment.
It’s easy to forget who we really are. To lose sight of what really matters. To fall asleep and not remember how interconnected we all are and that we’re fully human and, at the same time, divine.
A regular spiritual practice — whether that’s daily prayer or meditation, being in a spiritual community, or singing— serves to anchor us. It grounds us and helps us navigate the challenges we face from just being human. It helps us stay awake.
So ultimately, we can begin to let go, trust the rhythm and flow of life and relax into the beauty of our true nature.
Austin-based life balance coach/speaker Renée Peterson Trudeau is president of Career Strategists and the author of the new book Nurturing the Soul of Your Family. Thousands of women in ten countries are participating in Personal Renewal Groups based on her first book, the award-winning The Mother’s Guide to Self-Renewal. Visit her online at www.ReneeTrudeau.com
AOMA student Blake Gordon is known on campus for her infectious smile and her extensive knowledge of naturopathic medicine.
Although Blake’s home is in East Texas, where she attended school from high school through graduate school, she wasn’t introduced to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) until she moved to Arizona to attend Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicine (SCNM). It was there that she first experienced the amazing effects of TCM personally and saw firsthand how it improved the lives of patients she treated.
As Blake neared graduation from SCNM, she knew that she wanted to come back to Texas and offer Texans another approach to health and healing. However, she wanted more training in TCM, so she asked her TCM professor which schools in Arizona and Texas he thought were the best. Fortunately, he was a graduate of Chengdu University in China, and noted that many of the professors from AOMA were as well. According to him, Blake would get the best TCM education from AOMA, because he knew that the AOMA professors there had received the best training in China. Per his suggestion, she later visited AOMA and upon touring the campus: “I knew that it was the best place for me to truly learn TCM,” Blake said. “Thankfully, his recommendation stands true!”
She certainly has a lot of experience to offer her patients and her community. Not only is she a working as a Naturopathic Doctor (ND), but with an extensive background in teaching and bachelor and master’s degrees in Biology, she also conducts multiple nutrition and health talks for the local Salvation Army Rehabilitation Center. She definitely keeps busy, also working part-time at Peoples Pharmacy in Westlake.
Blake admits her hard work is not always easy. This is now her 12th year of post-high school training as she pursues her goal of being both an ND and Licensed Acupuncturist (LAc). “It can get a little cumbersome at times,” Blake said. Blake’s intended graduation date of December 2014 is only a little over a year away, however.
Although it can be a challenge to remain steadfast in her studies, she credits her perseverance to her faith in Jesus Christ and having a group of supportive family and friends to keep her going. In her free time, she usually chooses to relax by catching up on sleep or watching a variety of shows on Hulu Plus.
One of the reasons Blake was drawn to Chinese medicine was its unique blend of simplicity with brilliance and wisdom. “I love the fact that Chinese medicine was developed centuries ago; however, it is still applicable to any person today. TCM incorporates all parts of the person, i.e. physical and emotional aspects, as well as addressing the person’s lifestyle.”
As a naturopathic doctor, she is a big fan of how food, the environment, one’s emotional state and thoughts, lifestyle choices and numerous other factors are all major contributors to a person’s state of health within the TCM diagnostic process.
Blake’s advice to other AOMA students? “Know that God has a great plan for your life and that it’s up to you whether you chose to participate in His plan for you or to go your own way.”
On September 15th, during the annual commencement exercises of the AOMA Graduate School of Integrative Medicine, 33 scholars from the Master of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine program walked across the stage at the Hyatt Regency on Town Lake in Austin, Texas. After completing a four-year graduate program in Chinese medicine, these graduates are prepared with the knowledge to transform lives through compassionate, patient-centered care.
Master’s degree program director Lesley Hamilton led the procession of graduates. Proceedings included the presentation of the Michael Garcia Prendes Herbal Excellence Award, faculty recognition, awarding of degrees, and a healer's oath led by the doctoral program director Dr. John Finnell.
The keynote address, delivered by Rey Ximenes, MD, invited graduates to enjoy the journey and pursue life-long learning. Dr. Rey Ximenes is the owner and director of The Pain and Stress Management Center, an integrative, multi-disciplinary clinic. Dr. Ximenes began his career in medicine as an anesthesiologist working in such places as M.D. Anderson Hospital, Texas Heart Institute, St. Luke's Hospital, Hermann Hospital, St. Joseph's Hospital, and The Texas Children's Hospital in Houston. Dr. Ximenes is the current President of the American Academy of Medical Acupuncture and a Board Member of the Texas State Board of Acupuncture.
“My wish is that you can persist in the face of adversity, no matter what. Take what you have learned in your classes and expand on it, learn more, fail, and learn more. Most of all persist. We need you to succeed. For you are the future of medicine. You are practitioners who understand that the true meaning of holism is to include ALL we know in an integrative model.” He ended the speech by inviting guests to participate in a qigong blessing.
In honor of the late Cal Key Wilson, a student who would have been graduating this year a new award was announced: the Cal Key Wilson Community Leadership Award. Graduating student Joe Phiakhamta announced the award, “Cal was selfless, humble and lived to serve others. His gestures and actions were never about him. He moved with a purpose, to make our days just a little bit better.”
Twenty years after the founding of AOMA, the class of 2013 carries on the tradition of embodying the art and spirit of healing, poised to transform lives and communities through acupuncture and Chinese medicine. Congratulations to all the graduates and their families!