Monday, July 23, 2012

There's a first time for everything

Photo Credit: Leslie Vigient
I just got back from my first acupuncture appointment. Good lord.

Even with the strong referral, it took me nearly a month to get in with this particular doctor. A petite woman with salt and peppered hair which accented her vibrant red framed glasses, showcasing the perfect blend of art and professionalism. This doctor was soft in nature like a grandmother, but firm and direct like a mother. I felt comfortable in telling her my life stories alongside my deepest medical and personal goals and secrets. She welcomed my honesty, and yet she still left me wondering if I answered her question "right".

Her office smelled of Chinese herbs and soft music absorbed the white noise and anxiety of all clients (definitely including the anxiety of this first-timer). Countertops were covered in needle boxes, suction glass balls, kleenex, and standard medical additions such as gauze and bandages. I clearly knew what acupuncture was going into it, so the needle aspect of acupuncture wasn't an issue for me. Between the blood draws for my thyroid and various tattoos and piercings that I have, I for some reason I trusted this stranger to stab me.

And she did.

After the face-to-face consult, I stripped down to my underwear and stood in front of her allowing her hands to trace my chi flow and my blocks. We talked about pains and naturally I brought up my never ending ability (and need) to crack my neck and roll my shoulders. She smiled humbly and said "I am not surprised at all from someone who was diagnosed with Hashimoto's Disease at 14." She explained to me the relationship between nerves and chi flow as she pointed out that where I carry my thyroid in the front of my throat, just around the corner in the same place, there sat my top vertebrae (Disclosure: I am not a medical professional, and by no means do I know technical medical terms, so just roll with my "medical" explanations here). She later asked if I had a stressful and anxious upbringing, because apparently getting Hashimoto's at 14 was quite a  young age to be diagnosed, and I briefly revealed to her the "shuffle" of my childhood. Apparently having a dad who moved in and out of marriages frequently affected my physical self more than I thought. But of course it did. I scrambled at a young age to make a name for myself and hold on to any sense of identity that being a Carlin had.

She chuckled as she traced my back, letting me know that I was giving her quite the project to work on as she said "It's a mess back there!" Yes, yes it is. She had me lay on the table on my back and opened up the flow in my legs. The needles didn't hurt. The prick didn't hurt. It was the sudden pain and movement that caught me off guard leaving me wincing. I felt like there was sharp electric currents streaming from my hips, to my toes. Opening up vents of circulation as if they were a dam to a river. She opened up my "vents" on both legs before having me switch over and lay on my stomach so that she could tackle my back. After what felt like a back massage, she counted seven main blocks and then literally stabbed needles into those seven spots. Uncomfortable, but not awful. She then lit the suctions and placed them accordingly (I have no idea where, or how, by this point my back was on fire with those feel-like electrical currents) and lined key spots along my lower back, and hips to further continue the flow of chi and energy.

This whole process lasted 90 minutes. We finished and I felt overwhelmed with both relaxation and confusion on what the hell just happened to me. Yet, I felt good. Really good. We scheduled seven more appointments (2 a week), and I took my checkbook and purse to the car to just sit there and reflect. What were those "currents"? How can I explain this feeling to others? How can I explain that this was oh-so uncomfortable, yet oh-so recharging and stimulating?

I look forward to seeing how this progresses as the sessions move along. She told me that the first appointment is always the most "uncomfortable" because you are breaking the biggest blocks, and from there it becomes alignment and flow energy.

I don't get it, and yet I recommend it. Has anyone else gotten acupuncture treatment before? What are your experiences?

Monday, July 2, 2012

Dharma Code

Last summer I worked my way through Rod Stryker's book, The Four Desires. Recommended and praised throughout the local yoga community, this meditation and exercise book aims to teach readers how they can take control to achieve a rich and fulfilling life. Skeptical at first (I was convinced it was some kind of  "don't jump!" book), I was pleasantly surprised by Stryker's approach and found myself looking forward to the various activities and meditative practices.

As summer carried along, my notebooks filled and my mind remained blissfully distracted as I let myself get wrapped up in the beauty that an Oregon summer has to offer. I finished off The Four Desires, making a new home for it on the book shelf and moved along throughout my summer reading list. Many people know my love for books and the spell that a bound book has on me. Whether it's the crisp scent and cracking sound that a hardback makes the first time you fold back its cover, or the rich character of a favorite book; Mine often polluted with bobby pins aiding as book marks, folded down corners, and pencil markings. I take pride in watching my collection grow and smile when new books find their place among the colorful spines of its new neighbors against my black shelves. 

I hadn't thought about The Four Desires since I had finished it. I didn't see myself ever re-reading it like I did so often with favorites such as East of Eden and The Sun Also Rises. Yet this past week, I pulled out last summer's notebook and plopped on the couch, in search of a quote that I knew came from another book that I had read the previous summer. As I searched for the quote my eyes caught notes from the work that I had done with The Four Desires, and there right in front of me in black ink was my dharma code.

[What the hell is a dharma code? Below is an except from the book describing it:]
"When you know and choose to serve your soul's driving reason for being -- what I call your dharma code -- you are able to collect and channel extraordinary power into your life because you are then linked to the infinite field of energy and intelligence that shapes our world. Once you are rooted in your soul's defining purpose, you are able to use your dharma code to direct every action and decision from the light of your soul.

A dharma code is each person's individual expression of his/her dharma or soul's purpose. It is a statement that clarifies your soul's reason for being. When acted upon, it is a principle that will benefit not just your own dharma, but the larger or universal expression of it as well. In uncovering and articulating your dharma code, you are providing the opportunity for your soul to direct you to be more fully yourself, and in so doing, to contribute more effectively to the benefit of the world.

According to the ancient teachings, each and every one of us is born with a distinct and glorious purpose. Thus, your soul's unique purpose -- your dharma code -- is hard-wired. It is not something you consciously decide. Your soul's purpose came into this world with you, even if you are not yet aware of it. It has always been a part of you. It's up to you to uncover it -- to bring it to a conscious level -- and then make living by it your priority."

I was disappointed with myself to see my dharma code tucked away in a shelved notebook, so I have decided to resurrect it. I spent a lot of time developing this damn thing!  May I remember this as I work through the summer, forced to adjust my activities. May I remember this as I look for new work, eager to blend my love of fundraising with the outdoor and arts community. May I remember this as I wake up in the morning and look at my reflection in the mirror.

I present to you, my dharma code:

"Embrace that you are always changing. 
Always giving. Always discovering. 
Stay purposeful, but live freely."