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The Power of Breath 
(continued) ​
by Dr. Calista Stafford, DOM

My mentor was Barb Scholz in Ann Arbor for fifteen years, and she has been working with people using Eden Energy Medicine for over 20 years now.  She had a patient who was badly burned one time and was in the hospital.  The stage one burn had her in so much pain she couldn’t stand for anyone to touch her or be close to her.  The nurses couldn’t come close to her without her screaming in pain.  Nothing they tried helped her.  She felt desperate for relief and the nurses felt helpless.  She contacted Barb and Barb went to the hospital for a visit not knowing what she could do. 

Barb went into the room and sat in a chair across from her.  Barb didn’t say anything; she focused on her breathing, and she began to breathe slow and deep.  In and out, slow and deliberate.  Her patient synced up with her breathing.  After about 5 minutes of this breathing, the pain began to shift and release. The nurses could walk up and touch the woman.  They gave her some pain meds and helped her more and after that the woman was able to heal.  All from the simple act of breathing. 

It is easy to think of breathing as being so simple it can’t help us, but breathing is powerful. After birth, we take our first breath, and our life begins until we let out our last breath and life is over. It sets the rhythm of our body and dictates our feeling of wellbeing or fear.  If we breathe  shallow and fast, the body assumes it is in danger and will send out adrenaline and cortisol. Breathing with the deep belly, the body can run at optimum, and healing and wellbeing occur.  Deep breathing is a powerful tool that each of us can use for better health and relieving stress. All of us have a powerful healing tool in our breath and all we need to do is use it.  

Comment on Fantastic Fungi ​
by Dr. Calista Stafford, DOM

The documentary delves into the history of the mysterious Fungi Kingdom. While there are millions of fungi that make up this Kingdom, there are a little over 20,000 known species of mushrooms, with more being discovered and studied all the time.

Paul Stamets is a self-taught mycologist who is loosely featured in the film. He shares several stories, but I found his most interesting story to be the one he shared about his Mother, Patricia. At the age of 84 she was diagnosed with stage 4 breast cancer.  With the combined use of Western Medicine and Turkey Tail mushrooms, she is now in remission.

Traditional Chinese medicine has been using the healing powers of Ganoderma and Turkey Tail for thousands of years. I find the medicinal use of mushrooms to be extremely effective and is something I incorporate in my practice as an acupuncturist. They really are the gem of our pharmacopeia.

There are many ways in which mushrooms are being studied. I found the ones shared throughout the film to be quite fascinating. There are stories about how mushrooms cleansed the earth after an oil spill, how mushrooms are being used to cure depression and anxiety, and even fixed a stutter.  Much of the information shared in this film can be backed up with scientific research and data that’s been collected over the past 50 years.

This movie has wonderful graphics and shots of mushrooms growing.  It’s beautiful and oddly comforting to watch.  The people involved in the world of mushrooms are so interesting to listen to. I now want to join a mushroom hunter’s group and experience it for myself.   It is worth giving this movie a look-see.

For more information visit Paul Stamets at TEDMED 2011

Looking at Metal Element with a Holistic Mind (continued) ​
by Dr. Calista Stafford, DOM

Being sister pairs, the Lung and Large Intestine Meridians have the same correspondences.  This element opens into the nose, (which makes sense as Lungs are about taking in breath and the Large Intestine Meridian ends at the nose), it governs body hair, resonates with Autumn and Dryness, the color is white (a shocking death can cause a person to go ‘white as a sheet’), the taste is spicy (think wasabi),  the smell is pungent (think decaying leaves), energy is declining (falling leaves, or the ‘golden years’), the sound is weeping (think Garrison Keillor or a someone grieving) ,  imbalances tend to manifest on the Skin, and the direction of the Metal element resides in the west(dry) and the past. Ideals like worthiness, purity, respect, refinement, regret embody Metal. Grief is the emotion of Metal.  Everything listed above is a part of both meridians and all their acupoints.  Since the energy in nature is falling (leaves and sap of a tree), there can be a sense of loss or grief during this season (the year coming to an end, the light fading away). 

When a Chinese Medicine practitioner uses the word Lung, they are not simply just referring to the actual Lung organ.  The organ, the meridian, all the correspondences listed above, and the season of nature are rolled into the word Lung.  Every cell has a resonance to the Lung.  Oxygen is brought into the cell and then carbon dioxide leaves the cell – the Lung function.  The cell creates waste, and the cell will eliminate the waste as the Large Intestine does.  All of this and the action of the acupoint is held in the mind of a practitioner as they are going to needle one acupoint.  It’s a bigger field of intention.

How does this work to heal? The body is considered to have four levels: Physical, which the needles go into, Mental, Emotional and Spiritual (all energetic).  The body is very wise and knows the level that needs help first. The physical will always be treated.   The practitioner also uses intention to work on a specific level.  Each level will eventually show up at the physical level if not dealt with.  It’s easier to deal with the other three levels that are still energy before they become concrete in the tissues and show up as pain. A practitioner once said, “ask the pain what it’s trying to tell you.” The pain can tell you which of the three energetic levels is out of balance. 

The concept in figuring this out is to think of what the organ does physically in science and then apply that to how we think or how we feel, or even our spiritual life. The levels:

​Physical issues are easiest to understand.  Someone is having issues breathing or they are constipated.  They have a skin rash, or their sinuses are stopped up.  In this example we are focusing on the Metal element, but as this is a holistic system, of course other elements and meridians come in to play a role as there is always more than one meridian at work. This is the pain level and what most people are in acupuncture for.

The Mental level has to do with our psyche and thought processes.  Are we taking in toxic ideas: media, entertainment, toxic people in our lives?  Do we have a way to take out the mental trash?  Is our mind cluttered with too much stuff or under stimulated?   The Metal element can be a sharp wit like a knife.    Metal can be very cutting, a person who always finds a flaw instead of seeing all that is correct.  A perfectionist is someone refining, hunting for the gold in their endeavor or judgmental towards other or themself. Or they might revel in the filth; ‘life is crap and I’m realistic that it will always be crap’.   Ex. A hoarder is someone who isn’t letting go mentally of things for whatever reason and they are constipated mentally and physically everything they keep in their house starts to rot away anyway.

The Emotional level is how we feel in the world. The correct way to feel emotions is to let them come in, feel them, and then pass out of us.  If we won’t let ourselves feel, or we won’t let go of a feeling, this can lead to physical level issues.   The emotion associated with Metal is Grief.  Grief is heavy and you can feel it on a person.  People can lose a loved one and carry that Grief for the rest of their lives, or they run away and refuse to feel such an uncomfortable feeling (let’s party instead).  Ex.  A daughter lost her father years ago and her mother was still grieving.  She took mom antiquing and noticed every time mom smiled, she would look ashamed and put on her sad face.  The daughter tried to get across that it’s okay to feel happy, even though dad is gone.  The mom wasn’t letting go of her grief.  This can lead into the spiritual level.

The Spiritual level is about the cycles of life and the big picture. There is an hourly cycle, a daily cycle, a monthly cycle, a yearly cycle, and a life cycle.  Think of Metal like smithing a sword.  The sword is heated, then shaped, then cooled over and over and over, taking all the impurities out and keeping the strength of the metal - Refinement.  This is the time at the end of life we look back over our lives and take the lessons we have learned and all the people we have known to find the gems of our life. This is the end of the day when we evaluate our day, what can we improve tomorrow, what was good, what wasn’t.  At the end of the year, we can look back on our journey deciding where we want to go next.  Are we so stuck looking back at our past that we can’t be in the present?  Do we never look back, ignore everything, and only move forward, skipping this step?  Both are Metal out of balance.

Most people don’t enjoy the energy falling in our culture and we resist it.  We want to keep up all the summer activities and fun.  Our culture tends to celebrate youth and tends to ignore the elders. Elders are wise with experience and can give needed guidance.  Metal is important to go through as it will lead us back to the unknown, the Water element where the cycle starts over.  A fire burns up fuel and the ashes have minerals in them that will fuel new growth. Something dies for something to be born. This is the spiritual cycle.  Ex.  High School ending is the death of childhood and the birth of adulthood.

Everything listed above can go into needling an acupuncture point to bring about growth, change and relief of pain.

Enjoy the colors outside.  Nature is truly the greatest healer.  Use this time of year to let go of that which you don’t need, to set new rhythms that bring healing into your life. Find the gems of your life to forge a path ahead. Take a moment to appreciate your journey to this moment.    Focus on breathing.  Peace