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!