Thursday, June 18, 2009

Spirituality and Alternative Medicine

"I don't jog. If I die,

I want to be sick."

- Abe Lemons (former writer and head basketball coach of Oklahoma)

Welcome Spirituality & Science followers – we have a special guest with us today. Alison Dinn, L. Ac. is a Licensed Acupuncturist who specializes in Chinese medicine. She earned her undergraduate degree from the University of Pennsylvania and trained in a hospital in Cheng Du, China. Alison graciously agreed to answer some questions that I thought might be useful to those who are interested in alternative medicine. I use the term “alternative” to describe Chinese (or Eastern) medicine, as opposed to “traditional” or Western medicine practiced most commonly in the United States.

Interviewer (moi): Thank you so much for being here today. It seems like we are hearing more and more in the media about alternative (Eastern) medicine and I was wondering what you perceive the main differences to be between Western and Eastern medicine?

Alison Dinn: There are many differences but I believe there are 3 main ones.

1) This one I think is the most important: We view everybody as unique so there is no one treatment plan for one dis-ease that works for everyone – because everyone is different. 10 people may come in with the same complaint and after an evaluation; they may all require different herbs and varying acupuncture points.

2) Western medicine tends to treat symptoms of disease while Chinese medicine doesn’t believe there are diseases or illnesses per say; there are patterns going on in the body at all times so we are treating those underlying patterns. By the time symptoms show up physically, these patterns (or imbalances) have been going on for some time.

3) In Eastern medicine the physical body is viewed holistically or globally. It reminds me of the butterfly effect, “If a butterfly flaps its wings in Beijing in March, then by August, hurricane patterns in the Atlantic will be completely different.” We don’t divide the body into systems such as cardiovascular, respiratory, etc. as everything affects everything else.

I: Can you explain the concept of chi?

A.D.: Basically, the basis of all Chinese medicine is that every living thing is all a balance of yin – female and yang – male (pure energy). The word “chi” is a type of yang energy and is the life force that flows through all living things in the universe. There are numerous kinds of chi that flow through your body and everything else.

I: There appears to be more hype these days about the connection between mind and body. In your opinion, how does spirituality play a role in health/wellness?

A.D.: (laughs) You know, we were never even taught the mind/body connection because it was just assumed that there is no separation between the mind, body, and spirit. Acupuncture treats people on all 3 of these levels even though most people present for treatment due to issues on the physical level. Problems usually occur first on the spiritual or emotional (mind) level and then show up on the physical level; however, most people (in the U.S.) are more focused on physical issues. Interestingly, when I worked in China, I saw people heal from physical problems more quickly because they tend to get treatment sooner and more often. They also tend to be more focused on eating healthy and engaging in practices like Qi Gong and Tai Chi.

I: What types of methods do you commonly use in your practice? Why types of health issues do you see that respond especially well to alternative medicine?

A.D.: Acupuncture, reiki, and herbs. I usually use a combination of these. About 2/3 of Chinese medicine is treatment through herbs. I will use acupuncture to get the person in balance, and I think of herbs as a type of “daily” acupuncture t o keep people balanced. The needles used in acupuncture don’t do anything in and of themselves; they simply tell the body to regulate itself. The body is smarter than anything else and knows how to best treat itself. The needles are placed on points along meridians that follow the energy pathways in the body.

Common ailments that respond well to TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine) are pain, digestive issues (IBS, etc.), women’s issues (fertility, gynecological, hormonal, etc.), and insomnia. There are some studies being conducted in Europe on acupuncture used for fertility problems, and they’ve had amazing results.

I: That brings up another question. If more research is supporting the use of “alternative” methods such as acupuncture, then are these treatments being covered more by managed care insurance providers?

A.D.: Yes! I have seen an increase in managed care companies that cover acupuncture now. Several of the top of my head are: BC/BS, Cigna, Kaiser, and Aetna.

I: What is something that people might be surprised to know about alternative medicine?

A.D.: Most people think of acupuncture as some “out there” treatment when in reality, it is more linear and rational than much of Western medicine. It is mapped out based on the evaluation in terms of definitive diagnosis, specific herbs, and acupuncture points. The evaluation involves the interview, visual examination, and “feeling” of the organs and pulse.

I: Does it work even if you don’t “believe” in it?

A.D.: Absolutely – some of the most miraculous healing I’ve seen has occurred in people who didn’t believe in it but came to treatment because “someone made them.” My own father is an example - he couldn’t believe that this was what I chose to study as he didn’t believe in any of it. He hadn’t been able to move his shoulder at all for 3 months, so I offered him a treatment. It’s been 5 years now and his shoulder has been fine ever since – he now believes.

I: Protecting confidentiality, can you give an example of a successful case treated with alternative medicine?

A.D.: I saw a young woman who had not had a period in 7 years. She had been given a Western medical diagnosis by a doctor, but had no resolution of her problem and she desperately wanted to become pregnant. She came to me hoping that I could regulate her period so that she could begin trying to get pregnant. I treated her for a few months, and she didn’t get her period – because she got pregnant! She had to tell her ob/gyn that the date of her last period was 7 years ago! She now has a second child - and regular periods.

I: Wow- that’s an amazing case. Is there anything else you want people to know about Eastern medicine?

A.D.: I want to make it clear that I am very pro-Western medicine. I just believe that it’s best to integrate the two. In China, 90% of internal medicine issues are treated with herbs rather than other medications. The doctors there are trained in both Western and Eastern medicine, so they know when to use herbs versus antibiotics, for example. I think that medications are necessary at times, and I wish that here (U.S.) we could work together to create a more cohesive health care model.

I: Thanks so much for sharing all your knowledge with us. I appreciate your taking time out of your day for this.

More information about Alison Dinn: for those in the Denver area interested in acupuncture, Ms. Dinn can be reached at 303.733.4500.

On a personal note, I can say that she is absolutely fabulous. She was my introduction into alternative medicine when a friend recommended her due to my chronic allergies, and is the reason I went on to become trained in Reiki and am now a Reiki Master. It is not an understatement to say that my life has completely changed since meeting her – for the better of course, or I wouldn’t have done this interview. :) Until next time…

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Spirituality & Money

“What we really want to do is what we are really meant to do.
When we do what we are meant to do, money comes to us,
doors open for us, we feel useful, and the work we do feels like play to us.”
- Julia Cameron (author and filmmaker)

How is money spiritual?

If you're asking that question, then chances are, you've had some ideas about money in your life that weren't benefiting you. I know I did. I grew up in a religious household where giving money to the church was considered very spiritual, but having lots of money was a different story. If I had nickel for every time I heard "Blessed are the poor" during my years of Catholic school, I would have graduated high school a millionaire! My parents spoke with disdain of others who had lots of money as if the act of being wealthy meant they were automatically corrupt. If you've heard the phrase "Money is the root of all evil," then you know what I'm talking about.

Money is money. At present, it is the accepted form of currency for obtaining goods and services you need or desire. Awhile back, it was chickens and goats, today it's money. Maybe back then it was said that chickens were the root of all evil but I doubt it. I think the key is keeping your life in line with your values, and I don't believe if you do this that abundance of money is any different than abundance of love or health (and you usually don't see people criticized for having too much health or love). For instance, if I value friends and family, then having money allows me to focus on these things even more (e.g. staying home with the kids, flying to visit relatives, take family vacations, etc.) Winning the lotto would not make me suddenly think, "You know, I've always wanted to try being a meth addict and now I can do that. Yeah!" If you are stable in your values, then money is another way to foster growth and yes, I absolutely believe this can be quite spiritual. A great book on this top is Money and the Law of Attraction by Esther and Jerry Hicks.

There is a quote that says, "Don't tell me what your priorities are. Show me where you spend your money and I'll tell you what they are." I love this because it's true. I looked at what I bought today - lunch for my kids and airline tickets to take my son to visit my family - and felt really good about the purchases (despite the cost of flying these days). Okay, I also bought a Peppermint Patty just for me, but the quote is still true, because I do value chocolate!

You Get More When You Give More
As most of you know who follow the blog, I'm a huge believer in the law of attraction, which basically means that the life you have around you now is your own creation and it is created by the power of your thoughts. If you don't like how your life looks, then change your thinking and this applies to money too. For instance, people who always complain about debt and focus on how many bills they have tend to always have a reason to complain. "The rich get richer" is this same principle in the opposite direction. In my coaching practice, I've heard, "Well, of course I could do [insert desired goal] if only I had the money." NO! This is negative thinking and pushes you even further from your goal. If you take steps toward whatever your desired goal is (and that goal is in line with your personal values), the money will come.

This power of intention - the intention to manifest money - is amplified when you give it away. You are telling the universe that you have plenty and know you will receive more - and the universe responds to you. If you let it flow out, it flows back in. Conversely, if you hold onto money so tightly out of fear that no more will come, the universe responds to that as well and it won't come. I have friends of various religious beliefs who give to their churches and other friends who give to different charitable organizations, so again, do what is in line with your own values. I'm not saying to give more than you can - such as not paying your rent or mortgage in order to make a donation, but most people can do a small amount. Or give something valuable that isn't monetary such as clothes, furniture, etc. Give your old baby items to a mother that is just starting out, give your old computer to a school that needs it, etc. Give your time - time is one of the most valuable things there is. Volunteer. Get creative with being generous.

When my husband and I first finished graduate school with several hundred thousand dollars in student loans between us, he would watch me write my little $15 and $20 checks to charities and say, "What are you doing? Do you know how much we owe?" I would always remind him that we had food on the table and clothes in our closet and therefore had plenty. The checks we write are bigger now, but the underlying values are exactly the same. As the CFO of the household, I still have times when I feel like things are tight. When my son ended up needing new glasses last week, my first thought was, "oh great, $300, just what we need right now." I immediately caught myself having a negative thought and got online right then and there to donate money to one of my favorite charities. I told the universe that I had plenty. I then visualized random checks coming in the mail (another one of my intention experiments mentioned in a prior post), and told my husband to watch for them. This was Thursday and we have gotten 3 checks in the mail in the last 5 days (2 of them were completely random and 1 was expected at some point but we weren't sure exactly when it would come). Not huge checks - but still, checks that more than covered the eyeglasses!

So, try this: Write down your top 3 values (health, spirituality, family, career, travel, learning, etc.) Is the life you are currently living in line with those values? If not, reassess. If so, good for you. Practice telling the universe how grateful you are for all the abundance you have (in all areas, not just money) and watch the universe respond by giving you more. Until next time...