Acupuncture & Chronic Pain Part 1: Experience the Difference

View the above video of 2 state employees suffering from chronic pain.

One is using prescription drugs to manage pain. One is using acupuncture.

Patients Deserve the Choice of Their Medical Treatments.

“The United States spends much more money on health care than any other country. Yet, Americans die sooner and experience more illness than residents in many other countries…health trajectory is lower in success and higher in cost than it should be. The cost of inaction is high.”
– Harvey Fineberg, President of the Institute of Medicine


Acupuncturists are experts in administering less invasive, low-cost treatments that support the body while it heals itself, and that serve as effective substitutes for riskier modalities such as prescription narcotics.

Acupuncture plays an important role in helping patients with pain avoid more expensive, higher risk interventions. A 2012 British study found that one-third of total knee replacement candidates who received acupuncture instead of conventional treatment experienced long-term pain relief and were able to avoid surgery two years later, at a cost savings of $8,100 per patient. In the U.S., where 719,000 knee replacement surgeries were performed in 2010, the savings could total $1.9 billion.*

Acupuncture reduces pain, reduces inflammation, and increases blood flow and circulation.

The efficacy of acupuncture and traditional Asian medicine for pain, cancer, and many other health conditions is proven. Forward-thinking American health care and insurance systems will support and incentivize visits to acupuncturists because they treat effectively and are cost-effective.

There is no risk of addiction or abuse, as there is with prescription narcotics.

There are no side effects, as there are with many prescription drugs.

Acupuncture is the fastest growing medical service in the United States and the world.

Many NFL teams use Acupuncture services to help their football players perform at their peak and help injuries heal faster.

Acupuncture services are being included as one of the medical services at the 2015 Special Olympics in Los Angeles.

Acupuncture services are helping U.S. servicemen and women on the battlefield as well as veterans at home.

The top 5 U.S. cancer centers, ranked by U.S. News and World Report, have licensed acupuncturists on staff and fund and conduct acupuncture and Oriental medicine research.

*Inpatient Surgery: National Hospital Discharge Survey; 2010. Atlanta, GA; 2010. Available at:

Part 2 of this blog post Acupuncture & Chronic Pain will focus on how we at Armonia Health LLC treat pain with acupuncture and Chinese medicine.

Part 3 of this blog post Acupuncture & Chronic Pain will focus how we at Armonia Health LLC are working towards an integrative approach to treating pain that addresses the physical symptoms, as well as the impact of pain on relationships, self care, and personal goals.



Los acupunturistas son expertos en la administración de tratamientos menos invasivos y de bajo costo que apoyan al cuerpo mientras se cura a sí mismo y que sirven como sustitutos efectivos de las modalidades más riesgosas, como los narcóticos recetados.

La acupuntura juega un papel importante para ayudar a los pacientes con dolor a evitar intervenciones más costosas y de mayor riesgo. Un estudio británico de 2012 encontró que un tercio del total de candidatos de reemplazo de rodilla que recibieron acupuntura en lugar del tratamiento convencional experimentaron alivio del dolor a largo plazo y pudieron evitar la cirugía dos años después, con un ahorro en los costos de $ 8,100 por paciente. En los EE. UU., Donde se realizaron 719,000 cirugías de reemplazo de rodilla en 2010, los ahorros podrían ascender a $ 1,9 mil millones. *

La acupuntura reduce el dolor, reduce la inflamación y aumenta el flujo sanguíneo y la circulación.

La eficacia de la acupuntura y la medicina tradicional asiática para el dolor, el cáncer y muchas otras condiciones de salud está comprobada. Los sistemas de seguro y atención de salud estadounidenses con visión de futuro apoyarán e incentivarán las visitas a los acupuntores porque los tratan de manera efectiva y son rentables.

No hay riesgo de adicción o abuso, como ocurre con los narcóticos recetados.

No hay efectos secundarios, como ocurre con muchos medicamentos recetados.

La acupuntura es el servicio médico de más rápido crecimiento en los Estados Unidos y el mundo.

Muchos equipos de la NFL utilizan los servicios de Acupuntura para ayudar a sus jugadores de fútbol a rendir al máximo y ayudar a que las lesiones cicatricen más rápido.

Los servicios de acupuntura están siendo incluidos como uno de los servicios médicos en los Juegos Olímpicos Especiales 2015 en Los Ángeles.

Los servicios de acupuntura están ayudando a hombres y mujeres militares de los EE. UU. En el campo de batalla, así como a veteranos en el hogar.

Los 5 principales centros oncológicos de los EE. UU., Clasificados por Noticias de EE. UU. Y World Report, tienen acupunturistas con licencia en el personal y financian y realizan acupuntura e investigación de medicina oriental.


Spring is Here! Practical tools

written by Austin Dixon L.Ac.

Spring is here! Even if the weather still has random wintery moments (welcome to NC), the energetic shifts that come with the season change are in full effect. So even on days when we reach for a scarf, things are changing. We tend to feel the physical and emotional changes more moving from Winter to Spring than other season changes. Spring’s energy is a bit chaotic and more noticeable than the subtle changes we experience when we transition to other seasons.

In Chinese Medicine Spring is associated with the Wood element. All the trees start to bloom and grow. We see baby animals and beautiful flowers everywhere. Everything is alive! Everything has a newness and the energy around us feels a little like a young child set free on a new playground. It can be both exhilarating and exhausting. It’s important to recognize the chaos but not get caught up in it. Take time to meditate or just sit quietly. As the weather gets warmer and the days get longer we can easily find ourselves committing to too much, saying yes to everything, resulting in getting run down quickly. Make sure to build in breaks and be conscious of overbooking. Trust me. Say no. Take some breaks and you will be able to do the stuff that really matters without burning out.

Spring is associated with the Liver and Gallbladder channels. These channels provide the body with a smooth flow of Qi which is essential to balance. Our Liver Qi has a tendency to get stagnant due to stress, overwork, and emotional upset. Needless to say, a lot of us have Liver Qi Stagnation. Liver Qi Stagnation can present as anger/irritability, headaches, stiff or painful joints, tension, excessive sighing, or issues with the eyes just to mention a few. Symptoms of Liver Qi Stagnation can be more prominent and persistent during the Spring. It is very important to move Liver Qi before it wreaks havoc on the other channels. Acupuncture, meditation, and regular exercise are great ways to move Liver Qi. Something to keep in mind while choosing an exercise routine for the Spring is that the Wood element governs the tendons and sinews (you may notice a flare up of tendonitis). Focus on exercises that are less rigorous and more stretching and strengthening like yoga, pilates, walking, swimming. Tai Qi and Qigong are also great for this time of year.

I hope this has been helpful in explaining a few of those Springtime symptoms you may be experiencing. Just like the trees we are always growing. Spring is a great time to refresh your self care routines (or finally create one) and create new health habits. Pro tips: get acupuncture, maintain regular exercise, build in breaks, and enjoy your Spring!    


For more information on the Wood Element, it’s associations, and other signs and symptoms of a Liver and Gallbladder meridian imbalance, check out our Spring 2017 blog post


Bringing Families together/Uniendo las familias

Written by Li-Lan Hsiang Weiss L.Ac.

This blog post is in English first and Spanish below.

Chinese New Year in Asia and with the Chinese diaspora is about celebrating with families and food.  This sounds like a very typical celebration across most cultures?  I love similarities across cultures.  In Taiwan, where all my family is from, the extended family comes together over the week-long celebration, special dishes are cooked that symbolize prosperity, abundance, and the bounty of the earth.

The Chinese traditions for the New Year celebration include the placement of an altar outside the front door of the house.  The altar would have incense to carry ones prayers and blessings to heaven, fresh fruit usually in orange or yellow colors to represent happiness, the ancestor’s favorite dishes, rice wine, and candies.  After the prayers and burning of incense happens, the dishes are brought in to be eating in the family meal.

Everyone would dress up to include red or new clothes and every child would receive a red envelope from the adults.  The red envelope would have money that is meant to be kept and blessed in a special place in the house to bring health, blessings, and abundance to the child.

Since I rarely get to celebrate Chinese New Year with my parents and family in Taiwan, I still wanted to have the family energy at Armonia Health this year, and rather than just have a party, it felt good to me to give back to the children.

So I set up an altar to honor my grandparents, coincidentally picked yellow foods (mandarin oranges, goldfish crackers, caramel candy, and apple juice pomegranate punch), I borrowed toys from my friends of the 12 Chinese zodiac animals and placed them around the lobby, I printed the 12 animals for coloring, and a year chart so the families could learn about their zodiac animal while I gave “Healthy Child” Chinese pediatric massages, showed it to the parents and gave acupuncture for the teenagers.  I ended their session with giving them their red envelope.  It was sweet to see the children light up with a big smile when they saw the money bill inside and I loved explaining to the family the tradition of keeping it in a special place as a reminder of wishing happiness and best wishes for the child, it’s like practice of positive intention.

I saw about 30 children from 10-3 pm and while I treated the children in the community room, my husband Alex popped in as a wandering minstrel and brought music to add to the festive event. It was so much fun to have Armonia Health full of families and children!   The most common presentations that I saw were:  tight breathing, anxiety, tummy aches, joint injuries, asthma; all very treatable with either pediatric massage or acupuncture and Chinese herbal formulas.  It was nice to see the relaxation that everyone experienced who had never had massage before, it’s such a good learning experience to FEEL what it’s like to relax through a body-based therapy.  Our acupuncturists do see children under 18 in community acupuncture and privately and the prices are less than for adults.  We would be happy to attend to your children.

Below are pictures of our event.  Enjoy!













Las tradiciones chinas para la celebración del Año Nuevo incluyen la colocación de un altar afuera de la puerta principal de la casa. El altar tendría incienso para llevar las oraciones y bendiciones al cielo, frutas frescas generalmente en colores naranja o amarillo para representar la felicidad, los platos favoritos de los antepasados, el vino de arroz y los dulces. Después de que las oraciones y la quema del incienso suceden, los platos de comida en altar se comen.

Todos se visten de rojo para atraer la calidez humana, la energía Yang y la alegría y cada niño recibe un sobre rojo de los adultos. El sobre rojo tiene dinero que debe guardarse y bendecirse en un lugar especial de la casa para traer salud, bendiciones y abundancia al niño/a.

Como rara vez llego a celebrar el Año Nuevo chino con mis padres y mi familia en Taiwán, todavía quería tener la energía familiar en Armonia Health este año, y en lugar de simplemente tener una fiesta, me sentí mejor ayudando a los niños .

Así que preparé un altar para honrar a mis abuelos, casualmente recogí alimentos anaranjados (mandarinas, galletas de peces dorados, caramelos y ponche de manzana), pedí juguetes prestados a mis amigos de los 12 animales del zodiaco chino y los coloqué alrededor de nuestra sala de espera , imprimí los 12 animales para colorear y una lista de los años de los 12 animales zodiacal para que las familias pudieran aprender sobre su animal zodiacal mientras yo daba masajes pediátricos chinos, se lo enseñaba a los padres y les daba acupuntura a los adolescentes. Terminé su sesión con darles su sobre rojo. Fue agradable ver a los niños iluminarse con una gran sonrisa cuando vieron el dinero dentro del sobre y me encantó explicar a la familia la tradición de guardarlo en un lugar especial como un recordatorio de desear la felicidad y los mejores deseos para el niño/a, es como práctica de intención positiva.

Vi a unos 30 niños de 10 a 3 p.m. y mientras yo daba las sesiones, mi esposo Alex llego y entretuvo a las familias con musica folklorica de Latino America y Estados Unidos. ¡Fue muy divertido tener a Armonia llena de familias y niñ@s! Las presentaciones más comunes que vi fueron: respiración apretada, ansiedad, dolores de estómago, dolor en las articulaciones y asma.  Todas estas condiciones son muy tratables con masaje pediátrico o acupuntura y fórmulas herbales chinas. Fue agradable ver la relajación que tuvieron los que nunca antes habían tenido masajes, es una buena experiencia de aprendizaje SENTIR lo que es relajarse a través de una terapia corporal. Nuestros acupunturistas ven menores de 18 años en acupuntura comunitaria y en sesiones privadas y los precios son menos que para adultos. Estaremos encantados de atender a sus hijos.

Year of the Dog Forecast

written by Austin Dixon L.Ac., PDF of Lillian Bridges’ forecast at the bottom, cartoon YouTube music video for Chinese New Year

I love the new year. It is the perfect time for reflection and new intentions as well as cleaning up and cleaning out. I love getting rid of what no longer serves a purpose in my life and freeing up some space for newness and change. This process is not always easy but there is beauty in the struggle and always an opportunity to learn something new. However, the expectation that we change our behaviors immediately and sometimes drastically is unrealistic without easing into it or doing some serious planning. That is why I consider the first few months of the year as my time to ease into my new habits and intentions. It is nice that the Chinese New Year comes anywhere between a few weeks to a month and a half after the Gregorian calendar celebrates the New Year. Though I am not Chinese, I enjoy learning about other cultures and their approach to the new year and self improvement. It is an additional time to reflect, learn, and fine tune my intentions.

According to the lunar calendar the Chinese New Year begins February 16, 2018 and lasts until February 4, 2019. Each year is associated with a zodiac animal; this year is the year of the Dog. The year of the Dog comes every 12 years. The years are also associated with the five elements, Earth, Metal, Water, Wood, and Fire. This year is the year of the Earth Dog. The Earth Dog comes around every 60 years. Though it is considered bad luck if the zodiac animal of the year is the same as the year you were born in, a little heads up can help you be aware and possibly aid in some decision making. I am just going to skim the surface on this topic. You can definitely go deeper into the subject if you desire. At the very least these predictions can be entertaining and give you something to consider when setting new intentions for the new year.

The characteristics of people born in the dog years are said to have some of the most desirable human qualities. They are loyal, honest, amiable, and kind. They don’t need much in the way of material things and are happy with the basics, food, shelter, water, and a little love. They work hard and rest hard, a nice balance of yang and yin energy. On the flip side, they can be stubborn, self surviving, and have a brutal bite.

The year of the Dog is predicted to be good for business and technology and a great time to make lifestyle changes.  It is said that this year is a perfect time to start a new business or start learning something new. Health might be a bit more challenging for folks so it seems that this is a great time to focus on eating a balanced diet, limiting sugar, getting lots of sleep, and exercise. Dogs like to work hard, play hard, and rest hard. It will be extra important to rest and rejuvenate after work and social events.  Unfortunately, the year of the Dog may bring political turmoil (shocking). I don’t think anyone is surprised by this. Our current president is a dog.

I hope this post has given you something to think about and inspired you to get rid of something (physical or emotional), set a new intention, or motivated you to put your health at the top of the To Do List. Happy New Year, y’all!               Austin

For your entertainment and reflection: PDF file of Lillian Bridges’ Year of the Earth Dog 2018 forecast for health, relationships, businesses, realty investments, farmers, and your zodiac sign inclinations for the year:  Year of the Dog Forecast

Cute 4 minute music video for your children and to learn mandarin Chinese: Happy Chinese New Year Badanamu compilation

For pictures and blog of our Chinese New Year celebration at Armonia Health LLC on 2/10/2018: Bringing Families Together/Uniendo las familias

The Holidays and Mindfulness

From your friendly acupuncturists,  Austin & Li-Lan

The holiday season is here and in full swing. While all of us might not celebrate Christmas this time of the year we can’t help but be affected by them. This is when schedules get filled with social events (both wanted and unwanted), lots of money is spent, food and drink flow, and expectations are high. No matter how much you love or hate the holidays it is filled with extreme highs and lows. So how do we balance out those extremes? We have a couple thoughts….

Stop making the holidays about gifts. There are so many other beautiful ways to spend your energy. Get creative and do things that feel meaningful to you. Examples…

-volunteer (there are tons of places looking for help….soup kitchen, public school, tutoring, local non-profits, arts organizations)

-have an experience instead of a gift (get together and do something!)

-write holiday cards to folks that don’t get a lot of attention during the holidays (folks in nursing homes, overseas, jail, the hospital, etc…), or write longer meaningful cards dedicated to that person/family.  

-deliver treats (food, cards, etc)  to folks who have to work on holidays (fire stations, hospitals, police stations, grocery stores….) or share some extra gratitude and smile to those that work on the holidays.

Take care of yourself (and I don’t mean by spending money!).

-go to bed early

-eat cooked foods and avoid raw, cold foods

-take Epsom salt baths if you can, enjoy a warm shower with a drop of 100% pure essential oil in your wash cloth, or enjoy a nice cup of tea

-drink extra filtered water (refill from the local co-op rather than buying bottled water)

-avoid sugar to the best of your ability or use it in moderation,  low glycemic sweetener like coconut sugar or agave is a compromise

-spend a little time outside even though it is cold, nature can always provide interesting insights when you look closely

-exercise (even 5 minutes is better than 0 minutes), jump rope, move joyfully

-say no when you don’t want to do something and don’t feel guilty about it

-spend time looking inward and reflecting on the year, like give yourself a day of silence

-stretch daily (set a timer to remind yourself to take stretch breaks or stretch your neck and shoulders while reading this blog! =)

-honor your well-being, if you have the means, schedule acupuncture, massage, or a fun class for yourself.  There is now community acupuncture several times per week at Armonia Health LLC and you can find sliding scale community acupuncture and bodywork in our Triangle area.  

  Stop feeling guilty about what you eat. Even though I think sugar is kin to the devil, I truly believe the hateful things we say to ourselves are more damaging. It is really hard to avoid eating foods we view as “bad” over the holidays. Instead of beating ourselves up about it let’s focus on moderation (or not… go to town on that pie!) and use gratitude instead of shame. “I am going to eat this cookie that was made for me out of love.” “I am going to eat this cake in celebration of ________.” Our minds are powerful, let’s not let a cookie destroy our well being.  If too much sugar really doesn’t do well for you, really savor that ONE bite, take it slow and find “sweetness” in your life in other ways.

Do your best to stay in the moment. When the To Do List is long and the days are short it can feel overwhelming and stress gets elevated. Try to stay in the moment by making a gratitude list. You can do this with pen and paper as a daily ritual or simply stop in the moment of frustration and mentally list 5 things you are grateful for. I find that a gratitude list can also be helpful when preparing yourself for visits with challenging family members or co-workers. Since contact is inevitable over the holidays, prepare for the interaction by making a list of their positive qualities and/or ways that your life is possible and/or improved because of this person. Even if this list is short (sometimes very, very short) it can be a useful way to put yourself in a good place before entering a stressful social situation. 

And if you have a TO DO list, maybe you can reflect on whether so much needs to be accomplished in one day or are all those things on the list necessary?  What is most important and a priority for the day, the week, the month?

Keep practicing discernment, your whole BEING will be grateful in the long run. 

We hope you found this post helpful in some way and can have a few more relaxing and gratitude filled moments this holiday season. As acupuncturists,  we find it important to write something that might help folks through the holiday stress.   Not everyone can do all that is listed in this blog.   However, every bit of mindfulness helps, so implement what you can. 

Your friendly acupuncturists,

Austin & Li-Lan

Cleaning Out and Letting Go

by Austin Dixon, Licensed Acupuncturist

In Chinese Medicine the seasons play an important role in our health and wellbeing. Our body and mind is better when we eat seasonally appropriate food, wear seasonally appropriate clothing, and follow sleeping patterns that correspond to the rising and setting of the sun. There are certain energies or emotions that are connected with the seasons that can often explain why people feel certain ways during a particular season or seem to experience a recurring issue at the same time each year. Since the temperature is finally starting to give us a break here in North Carolina and the leaves are changing, I am going to focus on Fall.


Fall is the season that is connected to the Metal element and Lung and Large Intestine in Chinese Medicine. When the energy of Metal is strong you are able to let go of the things that no longer serve you and hold on to what does. Think about animals storing up for the winter. There is no space for unnecessary items. Fall is the perfect time to reflect on how the year has been progressing, recognize what is working for you and what isn’t, and to begin to let go of what you no longer need.


Sounds easy, right? Ha!


Letting go can feel so overwhelming and borderline impossible to many (most) people. Our new age friends might throw around the phrase “just let it go” as if this was a simple task equivalent to tossing an empty Kombucha bottle into the recycling bin at Whole Foods. Don’t let them fool you. Letting go is hard. Like, real hard. I am not one who shies away from change, but even typing about letting go has my palms sweating. So, let’s get real and talk about what this looks like for those of us who may want to hold on to our Kombucha bottle (I could totally use this for something!).

Mindfulness practices go a long way. We are all different and finding the right one for you can be life changing. If meditation or mindfulness is new to you there are plenty of resources at your fingertips. Literally. There are tons of apps and podcasts about mindfulness, as well as books and classes in your community. Li-Lan is working on incorporating mindfulness and Qi gong workshops to Armonia Health in 2018, one to stay tuned to is Tones for your Bones:  Embodying the Chinese Five Elements with Live Music.  I also highly recommend therapy. I know some great therapist in Durham if anyone needs a recommendation. 

Another technique I firmly believe helps nourish our Metal energy is cleaning out. I truly believe everyone can benefit from de-cluttering, both physically and mentally. Some folks have more clutter than others, but we all have something we can let go of. De-cluttering your home or work space is a great exercise in sorting and examining what you actually need. It can be hard to figure out what we need to let go of emotionally.  Learning to de-clutter and let go of physical things will give you more skills when it comes to doing the same with emotions and mental baggage.


When the energy of the Metal element is not on point it is hard for us to realize we have too much stuff and even harder for us to let go of any of it. So. Let’s start small.

Start with a drawer. Or a closet if you are feeling bold. Or a whole room if you are really ready to get your Metal element in good shape. No matter how much you are trying to tackle make four piles. The first three piles are easy-ish: Keep, Trash, Give Away. Pile four is a little harder. Every time we start going through old stuff we always find something that “Oh my god, I totally forgot about this and I love it so much and I will use it all the time now that I remember it.” These items get their own pile. Since the first three piles are pretty instructive when it comes to the next step (keep, trash, or give away) we will focus on pile four. It is best to keep this pile small. If these items are from a drawer they should fit into a ziplock bag. If these items are from a closet or room try to keep them limited to one box. Give yourself two months to use these items. Mark your calendar and go about your life. When your calendar lets you know that two months have passed, reflect on what you have actually used out of that box. If you have not used anything from your OMG-I-LOVE-THIS box, it is all packed up and ready to be donated. Easy-peasy. If you have used these items then you know that they are truly important to you.

I find it most helpful to do this every couple of months. Once you start cleaning out on the regular it not be so overwhelming and you are giving your Metal energy a little tune up on the regular.




I hope this helps. Please remember that the energy of Fall is different than Summer. You are supposed to slow down, reflect, let go, sleep when you are tired (this means go to bed earlier) and eat warm, nourishing foods.

Happy Fall Everyone!

How friendly are your Head, Heart, and Gut?

I have noticed over the years of practicing acupuncture and sharing the wisdom of Chinese medicine and teaching the Arvigo Techniques Self Care and introductory classes, that I have enjoyed creating a bridge between the wisdom of ancient traditions and modern science.  I have noticed that it is more accessible for English speaking people to understand what is happening in their bodies if I bring in anatomy, physiology, and principles of functional medicine.  As for the psycho-emotional aspect of health, Chinese medicine has an a relationship oriented approach that offers much food-for-thought, the cartoon at the end of this blog is a perfect example.

One of the most exciting aspects about modern research is the connection between the brain and the gut.  The gut is generally considered the Second Brain, the brain being the first, but when I learned that 90% of nervous system signals travel through the vagus nerve in the gut, passes and innervates the heart, and THEN TO the brain, I have started to call the gut The First Brain.  Imagine if we all learned as children that what we felt in our bellies is the most important part of our self awareness and to love our bellies and nurture its intelligence rather than just focus on IQ and cognitive/didactive performance?  How different may we have developed into adults?

This aspect of the gut being a central system of the body is parallel to the Spleen/Stomach organ systems and the Earth Element being part of the “Mother of all Elements”.  For more information on the Earth element, digestion, and the Spleen from Chinese medicine perspective, visit a previous post I wrote The Mother of all Elements

In this blog I’d like to present some practical approaches taken from mindfulness approaches that will help with making wiser choices by tuning into your Head-Heart-Gut connection.  Mrs. Mindfulness, Mellie O’Brien, has put together a visual, didactic, and audio meditation that is based on this principle that technology and neuroscience has now discovered and proven:  We have three brains, the head brain, heart brain, and gut brain. 

Below are the steps of this meditation:

Any time you’re at a decision point you can use this mini-meditation to respond (and not react) to what is arising with wisdom and intelligence, making more mindful choices leading to a fuller happier more authentic life.

Step 1: Take three deep slow conscious breaths as a way of gathering your awareness to the present moment.

Step 2: Bring your awareness to your head
With your awareness in the head acknowledge what kind of thoughts are present in relation to the current situation.

Step 3: Drop awareness down to the heart
Place a hand over the heart and take a moment to attend to what values you have in this situation, what you care about and what your deepest intention is.

Step 4: Drop awareness down to the gut
Place a hand over the abdomen. Tune into any hunches, intuitions or emotions that are present in relation to the current situation.

Step 5: Collect all this information
Take one deep slow conscious breath in and out as you have a sense of collecting all this information from the body and mind. Then mentally ask yourself this question “what shall I do now?” Listen for the answer.

The Head-Heart-Gut Check meditation can be done in as little as 30 seconds when you need to make a quick decision or you can do a longer version that takes up to five minutes when you have more time. This simple powerful mini meditation will help you make more mindful decisions and will be an ally in times when you need mindfulness the most. May it serve you well!

Her full blog post is and her recorded meditation is on our YouTube channel under Meditations: Head-Heart-Gut check in with Mellie O’Brien

Let me know if this resonates with you by commenting below!  And if you have any questions about how Chinese medicine relates to this connection.

I’ll leave you with the following cartoon from The Awkward Yeti, the brain is on the left, the gut in the middle, the heart on the right.  It’s so perfect for another blog post on Chinese medicine…

The Mother of all Elements

Rice fields at the base of the Himalayan Mountains in Central Nepal 3-week trek in 2011

LESSONS FROM OUR SPLEEN and Stomach, the organs of the Earth Element

Excerpted from Helping Ourselves: A Guide to Traditional Chinese Food Energetics

  • Organ of adaptation, nourishment, and support: We learn from infancy how to adapt to our environment and have our needs met
  • Physical digestion is “transformation and transportation” of nutrients
  • Mental digestion is processing information:  “Food for thought”
  • Emotionally about obtaining and giving emotional nourishment and support
  • Developing and cultivating an internal source of home, nourishment, and support.   Is there enough “sweetness” in your life?  Or does the “excess” caring turn into worry?
  • Belief in deserving nourishment and trust that there will always be enough
  • Fascia and soft tissue are a function of our support and containment (tone to our body).  When fascia is free to move and respond, we feel “at home”, comfortable, and supported by our bodies from the inside out.
  • Stronger the Spleen, stronger we are with its physical, mental and emotional connections


  • Physically:   STRETCH, exercise, MASSAGE, nourishing physical contact, wisely choosing to consume foods that nourish both the body and the emotions, cooking & preparing food
  • Mentally:  Meditation, Law of Attraction, affirmations
  • Emotionally:  Honor and attend to our needs
  • Spiritually: Connection with earth, Mother Earth and the Divine Mother


When attending to digestion and dietary issues, consider the above perspectives.  We can strengthen our digestion through working with any of the above levels; change in one level will resonate throughout the Spleen’s entire sphere of influence.

What are some Spleen nourishing foods?

Sweet potatoes, onions, cabbage, corn, apples, pears, rice, quinoa, amaranth, millet, barley, potatoes, cherries, dates, figs, beets, carrots, squash, mushrooms, almonds, coconut, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds.  Meats, fish, beans, nuts, and sweeteners are highly tonifying to the Spleen and are used in moderation in order to avoid creating conditions of heat (inflammation), dampness, and phlegm.  Avoid high glycemic sweeteners like those made from cane sugar and opt for low glycemic ones like coconut palm sugar and stevia.  The Spleen can’t process foods that are too sweet or cause phlegm, so avoid excessive carbohydrates, sugars, dairy, wheat flour, and refined grains.


–      EnJOY your food!

–      Positive attitude

–      Relax while eating (that means no news, cell phone, charged conversations)

–      Choose foods with strong life force

–      Take time to enjoy preparing and cooking your food

–      Chew well:  “The stomach has no teeth”, digestion starts in the mouth, chew 30 times before swallowing

–      Stop just before you are full (7/8 full)

–      Don’t flood the stomach, literally:  4 oz with meal, soups ok, excess liquid dilutes digestive juices in the stomach

–      Don’t overchill the stomach with cold, raw foods:  what happens to muscles when cold?

–      Eat in season and simply as often as possible

–      Eat main meal early, focusing on breakfast and lunch, digestion slows down in the evening.  Stick to regular meal times.

–      Smaller meals, NOT snacks, help stabilize blood glucose

–      Trust your body, over time we can cultivate the skill of separating our cravings and addictions from deeper levels of guidance

If after implementing the above guidelines for improving digestion, you still suffer from digestive imbalances and upsets, try implementing proper food combining principles from Dr. Herbert Shelton.

Protein, carbohydrates/starch, and fats require different enzymes for digestion and vary in how long and what medium they need to break down into absorbable components.  Proper food combining helps with more efficient absorption and assimilation of nutrients.   General rules:

·        Fats and starch go with vegetables

·        Protein goes with vegetables

·        Protein does not go with starch

·        Do not combine different classes of proteins at the same meal ( ie egg with meat, cheese with meat, beans with cheese)

·        Eat proteins and starches at different meals

·        Melons and watermelons “Eat them alone or leave them alone”

·        Leave fruit for 30 minutes before a meal, or 1 hour after a meal

·        Desert the desserts

Motivation of the Wood Element

Spring is a time of birth, change and rapid expansion. The Chinese medicine element or energetic phase for spring is Wood. Just as spring is the time for plants to quickly pierce the ground and for trees to flower, it also represents birth and the quick growth of children and infants. Therefore, the Wood element is concerned with movement, with motivation, and with the harmonious flow in our lives.

A healthy Wood element person is sure of oneself and can speak up for one’s needs, but also knows when to relax the urge for control and go with the flow. Many great visionaries such as Martin Luther King and Mahatma Ghandi have strong Wood elements. An example in nature is bamboo: the main stalk is very straight and firm but can also easily curve and bend with the wind.


The principal organs of the Wood element are the Liver and Gallbladder. The energy of the Liver ensures the smooth flow of Qi/Energy in the body and prevents such Liver Qi stagnation problems such as:

* spasms

* tight muscles

* painful menstruation

* continuous sneezing, itchy eyes from hay fever

* nervous tension, anger, frustration

* premenstrual symptoms

* constant hiccups, belching, or gas

* pounding headache

* feeling of restlessness with lethargy   How can we balance our Wood element if we experience any of the above symptoms or feel a lack of motivation or vision? Here are some suggestions:

* Increase intake of vegetables, particularly green vegetables. If your digestion is sensitive or you have a hard time digesting certain foods, eat more lightly cooked vegetables, rather than raw.

* Look at the green in nature whenever you have spent several hours reading or at a desk. Green helps children focus and relax. Rub your bare feet over green grass. Place plants inside your house (ie bamboo is very easy to maintain in water and moderate light).

* Include a moderate daily amount of sour foods such as lemons, seasonal berries, limes, pickles, berries, organic yogurt, apple cider vinegar, locally made sauerkraut

* Exercise, stretch, play. Movement keeps the Liver Qi from stagnating.

* Get enough sleep because the Liver Blood replenishes at night; insufficient Liver Blood leads to energetic stagnation. This is particular for women, since Liver blood is intimately connected to menstrual blood.

* On a psycho-emotional level, Wood energy is about unfulfilled desires, but rather than figuring out “what am I supposed to be doing with my life?!”, in other words, big life questions, focus on a present moment frustration that arises.  For example, if you are not a morning person and you are easily stressed in the morning, take a moment next time you find yourself frustrated, just a few seconds, to ask yourself, “What is happening at this very moment that I am frustrated?  What is the unfulfilled desire at this very moment?”  See what arises.  You do this enough times, you will find that answers will come easily, and your Liver Qi will flow more freely, allowing for more awareness to tackle deeper issues.


Balancing Fire & Heart energy

Originally published in June 2013 on Armonia Holistic Health’s blog post

“The supernatural forces of summer create heat in the Heavens and fire on Earth; they create the heart and the pulse within the body…the red color, the tongue, and the ability to expresss laughter…they create the bitter flavor, and the emotions of happiness and joy.”

The Yellow Emperor’s Classic of Internal Medicine, the earliest written record on Chinese medicine theory, over 2000 years old, is still used today


These are the associations and correlations of the Fire element:

-Governs Blood, which nourishes self-love

-Houses the Spirit, called Shen in Chinese, which maintains the emotional connection between humanity and the divine

-Manifests in the face and opens to the tongue

-Emotions are joy, love, and compassion

-Season is summer

-Flavor is bitter

-Color is red, like fire

-Climate is heat

-Internal organs are Heart and Pericardium (Heart Protector), Small Intestine and San Jiao (Triple Heater)

Fire tends towards excess types of signs and symptoms, with the sheer heat of the season, but also can be from excess activity and stress or stimulation from the outside environment: high stress job, going non-stop, frequently watching and reading negative news, feeling the “demands of others” and the weight of responsibilities.  These influences can be felt at any season, but notice if you feel particularly sensitive to these “assaults on the Heart” during this season.  An example: if you are a caregiver, how long can you continue giving if you don’t love and take care of yourself?  Can you give to others from a vessel, the body, that is empty?

These signs and symptoms, when present for an extended period of time, indicate the Fire element being out of balance:


-dream-disturbed sleep/vivid dreams



-inability to concentrate

-timidity, being easily startled

-stuttering or being overlly talkative

-forms of schizophrenic mania




From Lorie Eve Dechar’s Five Spirits:  Alchemical Acupuncture for Psychological and Spiritual Healing, on a spiritual/Shen level, disharmony in this Element can manifest as:

-Person’s personality does not fit the life he or she is living

-Lack of inspiration and insight

-Ambivalent sense of self

-Much activity but no center nor grounding

-No self-reflection

-Inability to distinguish real from unreal

Anything that upsets the Heart upsets the Shen!  Sudden emotional trauma, shock and abuse can cause a Shen disturbance.  In Maya spiritual healing as taught to me by Dr. Rosita Arvigo, through the Mayan Spiritual healing retreats offered through the Arvigo Institute, emotional trauma or shock is treated through spiritual baths which involve using water, fresh herbal plants, burning of copal incense, and the most important ingredient: prayer.  More information can be found in her books Rainforest Home Remedies and Spiritual Bathing: Traditions from around the world.

Deep seeded disturbance of the Fire element, such as psychosis and mania, requires professional assistance and a holistic approach to healing, but there are several self-care tools that will balance our Fire element, calm our Shen and bring us closer to harmony with Nature and ourselves:

-Slow down enough to be aware of what your body and Heart are tell you

-Bring a meditative quality into your daily activities

-Cultivate a sitting practice

-Journal, paint, draw

-Practice the self care tools you already know

-Take that vacation you are longing for

-Take time to listen before acting, wait for clarity

-Wear red and bright colors if you feel “lacking in fire”

-Have fun with water and around bodies of water

-Incorporate bitter foods into your diet: arugula, romaine lettuce, sprouts, watercress, dandelion greens, aloe juice, turnips/radishes, asparagus, celery, quinoa, amaranth, citrus pith and peel

-Eat more salads and lightly cooked foods, but not over indulge in iced foods or cold beverages as these damage digestive enzymes and taxes the digestive energy

-Incorporate teas and beverages that are mildly diuretic such as hibiscus, corn silk (this is one of my favorite teas when I buy fresh corn!), chamomile, spearmint, coconut water

I share with you two of my favorite quotes on love:

When you become a lover of what is, the war is over.    Byron Katie, author

The only positive energy that truly exists is love, and the greatest expression of that is loving yourself.  Don Juanito, northern Peru Amazonian shaman

In-Joy summer in whatever form your inner guidance wishes for you!