Allowing

For six months, I was a clinic supervisor at my former Acupuncture/Oriental Medicine college. There, I was in charge of facilitating and ensuring the smooth flow of the clinic, making sure that the interns, patients, and school were safe from any mishaps. However, my main duty there was to help mentor the interns, ensuring that the school was to graduate some of the finest practitioners that we can produce.

As a supervisor, I felt a duty to transmit as much wisdom I could to my interns. I needed to make sure that every future acupuncturist who’ve come under my watch become the best that they can be. If they are to become my future colleagues, they better be good, right? So I allowed each and every intern to develop their own style by establishing my own special relationship with each and every one of them based on their strengths and personality.

A part of being an intern at the school is to present to the supervisor the patient’s signs and symptoms, and to formulate a treatment strategy to the best of their ability. All throughout my short tenure of being a clinic supervisor at the school, I never did give my interns a straight answer of “you’re right” or “you’re wrong.” I always asked them “why do you believe this or that?” I was always open to the interns’ ideas as long as they adhered to proper medical theory and safety regulations. All they had to do is “sell” their strategies to me and tell me why they want to treat a patient in a particular way. And if they were “wrong,” then I’d guide them in a way that they can figure out the reasoning themselves, which gives them a sense of self-empowerment. They all loved this. It allowed them to develop their own style, their own manner of doing things, and making Traditional Chinese Medicine work for them. And as long as they can make the medicine work for them, they’ll make a successful impact on their patients’ lives. That’s the beauty of the medicine.

That’s also the beauty of life.

I treat my kids the same way. They can feel free to dream and do what they want to do, as long as their responsibilities are taken care of and that they live by compassionate morals, values, and safety.

You can’t force another person to be like you, and you can’t simply tell people they’re “wrong or right” and then to force-feed them why. You can only allow for them to discover and express their own inner brilliance. Nature is the same way. You can’t make a rose garden grow by pulling on their stems. You can’t foist your impatience and ego onto nature, your friends, your family, your workers, or others. If you do, be prepared for the backlash… whether it’s your kids rebelling against you, your workers decreasing productivity, or your flowers dying in the garden because you’re impatiently over-watering them.

Do you love the sun because you made the sun that way, or because it shines it’s own brilliance onto you?

One of my biggest joys as a parent is candidly watching my kids play or draw by themselves. You can see their entire inner world of imagination and self expression outwardly unfold before your very eyes simply by allowing them to be them.

We love the trees, the sky, the stars, and the creation of life because of what they inherently are. Everything in the universe is to be loved for their own inner essence, their own nature. And when you take time to look for the inherent nature in others, and show them how much you appreciate them in that way, they’ll make sure to show you that they appreciate you for being you, too.

That’s what I love about Tao philosophy. It allows you to be you, and by allowing your friends and loved ones to be themselves you can find true happiness.

2016 was a Boxing Match

I’ve had worse years.

In 2009, my father died on my birthday. Shortly after, everyone whom I thought were friends and every relative to whom I thought I meant something, either abandoned me or tried to hit me up for cash, assuming my father left me a monumental sum of money. Well, he didn’t and they were sadly wrong. Fuck them anyway. My mom actually blew most of my share of the inheritance money on some dodgy real estate investment property despite my urging her otherwise. For the next 3 years, creditors uncovered the sketchy business practices my Dad was involved in, and next thing you know, everything we worked hard and sacrificed for was gone.

2016 was a bit of a cakewalk compared to that period of time. But it was still rough.

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2016 was a boxing match with life.

2016 for Humanity

It’s hard to describe 2016 for planet Earth’s collective human consciousness other than the words: “fucking hell, man.” This year was a boxing match, fighting for any sort of balance and harmony, leaving us beat up and punch drunk down to the bitter end, much like Jake LaMotta in the movie “Raging Bull” with Robert DeNiro. And just like Jake LaMotta, we may have gotten beaten up, but we never went down. We’re still here, aren’t we? But not without getting bruised and scarred along the way.

In short, 2016 had the world reeling in chaos from the political instability and violence in Europe, America, Middle East, and pretty much everywhere else… to the death of our favorite artists who’ve inspired us throughout our lives. It was like an ongoing funeral for the unfortunate, the victims of ignorance, hatred, and war. So many people were murdered. So many people lost their lives needlessly. From a nightclub in Miami to the destruction in Aleppo… my heart ached for humanity this whole entire year.

Let’s not even get into the US election.

2016 for Me

Health-wise, 2016 was a particularly unforgiving year for my wife and me, going through health and resulting financial difficulty, especially after my wife’s major surgery. Thankfully, my wife is in good health and great spirits. But it was a scare, and it haunts me as I still think about it from time to time. I’m not dwelling on it as much as I’m preparing for lifestyle changes to prevent anymore health-scares. Also, I just found out that I’m borderline diabetic. No wonder I’ve gained 15 mysterious pounds even after a massive lifestyle change. My fucking pancreas can’t handle sugar/carbs. This, on top of celiac disease. Ain’t that a bitch.

Spiritually speaking, 2016 had more ups than downs. My previous Taoist master had disappointed me to the point of my having left him after three years of hard work and plenty of money for a much more able and accredited teacher. But my Qigong master overwhelmed me with honor by certifying me early, having felt that I was ready to teach and to carry on his lineage of shamanic Chinese energy healing. This was an honor for me, and quite humbling as well as I completely understand and welcome the duties to humanity that I’ve volunteered for.

Career-wise, because of some extenuating circumstances created by my previous years’ financial fallout (largely due to my late-father’s former business practices), it affected my Navy Reserve career and kicked it into a downward spiral. I’m everything short of getting kicked out of the military right now. It’s too bad because I love serving my country, and my peers and superiors all love and respect me and have considered me a “great person.” I couldn’t be more grateful for them. My holistic medical practice broke the previous three years’ numbers, despite the fact that I was gone for much of the year.

In the middle of the year, I was given the honor of being a clinic supervisor and mentor at my former college. The staff even flattered me with a job offer to become a full-time lecturer to take over for my late-mentor. Those were some big shoes to fill, and I’m grateful for that kind offer, but I’m much too busy in my personal practice to take on another role. What an honor to know that people believe in me.

I don’t consider myself blessed, nor am I lucky. I just work hard and I’m grateful towards others.

You know.. come to think of it… it wasn’t a horrendous year for my family and I. Sure, I’ve had to punch my way through a few situations, but it all actually ended well. I mean, when in all of human society’s history do we not have to fight through life? Life itself, and not just the year 2016, is a pugilistic prizefight.

So after the final bell of last year’s boxing match with circumstance, I’d like to say that I’ve won. My prize? My family and I gratefully get to live another day.

New York City

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Hugging the Big Apple

It’s been three years since I’ve visited the “concrete jungle where dreams are made of,” and I’ve missed it. I can’t even describe the feeling that I get as I step foot out of the airport and head towards Manhattan. The excitement, hopes, and dreams of every person who has ever called New York “home” all wrap around me like a blanket, reminding me that home is where my heart is… and dare I say, my heart belongs to New York City.

I finally made it back to the Big Apple over the previous weekend, this time bringing my wife. We had a blast visiting the compulsory spots such as the Brooklyn Bridge, Rockefeller Center, and the various eateries in the famed neighborhoods such as Midtown, Greenwich Village, and Hell’s Kitchen. There’s a lot to see (and eat) in New York City, and obviously a lot to talk about, but there are three things that I’d like to share that were the most spiritual aspects of the trip (this is, after all, my attempt at a “spiritual” blog).

The Art

Me and the “Buddha of Medicine Bhaishajyaguru” at the Metropolitan Museum of Art

Even though Chicago is known for it’s art scene with its Art Institute and Museum of Contemporary Art, New York has always been the big leagues. Both of New York’s monumental art galleries – Metropolitan Museum of Art and Museum of Contemporary art – are home to several renowned pieces by some of the most influential artists such as Kahlo, Dali, Van Gogh, Picasso, Cézanne, Matisse, Monet, and Pollock. My wife and I spent several hours in each museum slowly absorbing the brilliance of the several works of art one by one.

The most arresting piece I encountered was the “Buddha of Medicine Baishajyaguru” at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. We were walking through the endless maze of the Met when I stumbled upon this amazing 25’x50′ mural of the Medicine Buddha. I was so taken by the healing energy of that painting that I had to sit and meditate with it.

From the Met’s description of the painting:

Healing practices, physical and spiritual, played an important role in the transmission of Buddhism throughout Asia. In this mural, Bhaishajyaguru (Yaoshi fo), the Buddha of medicine, wears a red robe and is attended by a large assembly of related deities, including two seated bodhisattvas who hold symbols for the sun and the moon. The twelve warriors, six at each side, symbolize the Buddha’s vows to help others. The robust, full-faced figure and the shallow spatial construction are characteristic of the work of Zhu Haogu, who was active in the early fourteenth century and painted both Buddhist and Daoist imagery.

What I love about art is that with every visible stroke, line, and object you see, you can get a glimpse of the artist’s soul at the moment that they’re expressing their true selves like a window through time. With every artist, you can feel their joys, sorrows, and anxieties through their work. You can hear

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Jackson Pollock’s “One: Number 31” at the Museum of Modern Art

them call to you, asking you to listen to their story. Paintings and all forms of art are alive because their creator’s spirit lives inside of them.

One of my all time favorite artists is Jackson Pollock. I know this sounds pretty dumb, but I can’t tell you why I love his work, but I do. There’s a beauty within the chaos of his famous drip paintings, but you can tell that within all of that disorder, there was deep, healing intent to it. After all, Jackson Pollock had a very chaotic soul, you can see it in all of his pieces. To me, it’s the painting equivalent to how Huber Selby Jr describes his creative process – he simply shut off his mind and began to work, and his story was coming from deep within the divine and on to the paper (in this case, canvas). Pollock’s work, to me, is the manifestation of Tao… that beauty lies in spontaneity, and the non-contrivance of Wu-Wei, in order to express one’s true organic inner nature.

Central Park

It was in 2008 when I visited New York for the first time as an adult. I decided to take a random trip up there to walk around the city to visit all the places we see regularly in the media, and Central Park seems to be the main staple in movies and television shows. So I walked around and found that not only is it really fucking big (roughly half the size of Lincolnwood, IL), it’s also beautiful and serene. At some point, when you get deep enough inside the park, you won’t hear the chaotic hustle and bustle of the concrete jungle at all. You can fall asleep watching the ducks at a pond or a lake, or sit on top of a rock staring at the sky, and completely forget that you’re in the middle of the modern-day equivalent of ancient Rome. In Taoism, it’s the absolute Yin inside the absolute Yang. It’s a gross understatement to say that it’s peaceful in Central Park.

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My tree and I at Turtle Pond in Central Park

Back in 2009, two months after my father passed away, I decided to take a week off from acupuncture school to wander around aimlessly in NYC in hopes to boost my spirits and gather myself, which I called my “Holden Caufield Experience.” It was then when I found myself at my favorite place in NYC called Turtle Pond (because of the abundance of turtles and ducks swimming around there), pondering under a weeping willow tree. I chose this particular tree because it was isolated at the bottom edge of the pond, away from where most people were hanging out. I sat beneath the tree, opened up my journal, and wrote for the first time since Dad passed away. It was then when I wept and wept, and wept some more. It felt good to finally let it all out. I sat underneath that tree for hours, and visited that tree every single day of that trip, and every trip to New York since.

This last trip to “my tree” was different though. It was the first time that I’ve visited the tree after being initiated in my Chinese Shamanic Qigong lineage and cultivated an energetic sensitivity so acute that I could communicate with nature. So just last Sunday when I was finally face to face with my tree, and energetically spoke to her. She spoke back to me. Not audibly like people would think, but in a spiritual/shamanic way. She remembered me well, and most proudly told me how powerful I’d become. And we stood there facing each other, giving each other thanks. She told me that my father would be so proud of how far I’ve come. It was a powerful experience, and when it was time for my wife and I to leave, I threw myself onto a park bench and wept.

National September 11 Memorial

This is the first time I’ve been to the site of the World Trade Center since 2008 when they were still clearing out the area to make way to build the memorial. When my wife and I got there, there was definitely a heavy vibration coming off the site. If you’re at the least bit sensitive to energy, you can feel it… and I indeed can, and very acutely too. I don’t tell most people this, but ever since I’ve been practicing Chinese shamanic Qigong and Taoism, I’ve been so sensitive to energy that I can hear, feel, and see entities. For the first few minutes of being at the memorial, my awareness was in the mundane realm, just admiring the site.

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National September 11 Memorial

But eventually, my awareness shifted into the spiritual realm as if being pulled into another dimension. And there they were – the spirits of the victims of the 9/11 attack howling with sorrow and despair. I felt so much of their pain and suffering from their unexpected death that I couldn’t hold back my tears. I then found myself leaning over the memorial, weeping in sorrow. My wife, knowing that I have these sensitivities, knew what was going on and she urged for us to leave, but I said that I owed it to myself and to the spirits to finish touring the site. So I slowly gathered myself and continued walking. When we reached the end of the memorial, we sat for a bit and I prayed for the lost souls that have never made it to the Light. I prayed for them to go into the Light, where they’d find peace. Some of them actually went, others were too attached to their former existence that they simply couldn’t. I prayed for them to. And before we moved on to Brooklyn Bridge, I projected healing Qi into the entire WTC site with the intent that many more will find peace and move into Light.

Final thoughts…

People often find it hard to believe that I feel more like a New Yorker than a Chicagoan, and normally find me a bit of a traitor to Chicago (for which I don’t blame them). But when people ask me why I like New York City so much, it’s like asking me “so why do you like things?” I mean it’s a difficult question to answer, other than the fact that New York City seems to fit my personality, my tastes, preferences, my hobbies, etc.

But an even harder question to answer – on a spiritual level – is that why on earth would someone like me want to move to NYC, considering that I’m so exceedingly sensitive to energy that I can’t even attend a sports game without feeling so painfully overstimulated by the crowd that I get physically ill? My only answer is that NYC is simply just a different place. NYC is so vast, like an entire universe in itself, that somehow there’s enough “space” for me to create my own little protective bubble. It’s easier for me to shield myself in NYC than in Chicago for some odd reason. Or perhaps I’ve become strong enough to be able to shield myself from crowds and collective consciousness. I wish I could clearly tell you.

Besides, most people think about Midtown Manhattan when they think about NYC, when in actuality, I can see myself more specifically as a “Brooklynite” New Yorker more than anything since it’s so eerily similar to Chicago. I love Brooklyn more so than any neighborhood in Manhattan. But that’s a blog post in its own.

But overall, I love that damn city with all my heart. If by some god-willing power that my wife would give us the green light to move there (especially to Brooklyn), I would do it in a heartbeat.

Sitting in Oblivion to Blow Up the Outside World

 

Almost twenty years ago, I was suffering from one of the lowest points of my life. I was an undergrad at the time, but the downward spiral of anger and depression that I was going through were so debilitating that I would spend days on end at home, not wanting to go outside, not wanting to see or speak to any of my friends (or whatever friends I had left). I held myself hostage inside of my apartment that I treated like a turtle shell, inside of which I hid. The only energy I had was just enough to sleep, smoke cigarettes, and listen to the radio. At the time, it was the mid-90’s and alternative/grunge was my savior.

And that’s when I first heard Soundgarden’s “Blow Up The Outside World.”tumblr_o7tlqyyupr1sbf4sbo1_540 I listened to every word of this song with tears streaming down my face, feeling as if Chris Cornell himself were telling me, “Hey brother… I know how you feel.” When you’ve felt grief for so long, somewhere along the line something starts to kick in, and you start feeling angry. For me, I felt rage. Hatred. A resounding resentment towards the human society that seems to do whatever it takes to destroy you, while the family and friends – whom you thought were your support – tend to enjoy ripping the heart out of you. When it came to relationships with friends, relatives, my parents, and the general public, it was an ongoing heartache that eventually turned into hatred of this world. This song couldn’t express more perfectly how I felt. From the moment I heard this song, even till today, it’s become one of my personal anthems.

Someone tried to tell me something:
“Don’t let the world get you down.”
Nothing will do me in before I do myself
So save it for your own and the ones you can help

“Don’t let the world get you down.” People have said that to me before. It’s easy for them to say when they haven’t been subject to the racism, bullying, and abandonment that I’ve endured throughout my life since childhood. It’s easy to say “It shouldn’t bother you” if you’ve never experienced the struggle of being hurt by both society and your own family, as well as people whom you thought were your friends. Unless you yourself were beset on all sides, leaving you feeling cold and alone trying to pull yourself together during those sleepless nights, then you didn’t understand.

Want to make it understood
Wanting though I never would
Trying though I know it’s wrong
Blowing it to hell and gone
Wishing though I never could
Blow up the outside world

I’ve often wished I didn’t feel the way I did, but I couldn’t help it. I knew it was wrong to want to rid myself of the whole world which included everyone I once cared for. I’ve often come at a crossroads between remaining a part of society or leaving it completely. Sometimes I even felt as if maybe it would be best if society just got rid of my existence permanently since I knew I couldn’t do it myself. But trust me, I’ve considered it.

I’ve givin’ everything I need
I’d give you everything I own
I’d give in if it could at least be ours alone
I’ve given everything I could
To blow it to hell and gone
Burrow down in and
Blow up the outside world

I felt that I gave everyone around me – all my friends and my family – every ounce of honor, love, and loyalty that I had in me, but when things got hard for me they all turned their backs on me. I wanted so badly to believe that if I gave everyone my best, from relative to stranger, that everyone would treat me like a human. But deep down inside, I knew nothing would change. It was going to remain a heartless world no matter what. So I wanted nothing other than to destroy it. But I was never the violent type. Destroying the world was figurative to me. But at the time, if the world blew up, it would’ve made me happy.

For more than a decade since then, I held on to such deep-seated hostility until the anger became so tiresome that I needed to start searching for peace of mind. I needed to find a way to deal with this human existence without destroying myself and/or alienating my wife and kids in the process. I needed to bring my mind back to the time when I was once content. So I began a spiritual search for answers in the realm of Eastern Philosophy, an area of study I once engaged in before anger consumed me for several years. Through a thorough life search and several months of introspection, I eventually discovered that being a healer would be the best way to reconnect myself with society, and I thus became reunited with Taoism.

Soon after that realization, I found myself sitting in front of a book by author Livia Kohn, entitled “Sitting in Oblivion.”

“Sitting in oblivion” is the English translation of the Chinese word “zuowang,” which is often translated as “sitting and forgetting.” Zuowang, according to Kohn, is the “heart of Taoist meditation” because it’s a central practice of several Taoist lineages. Sitting in oblivion is very much like many other meditation practices in that it’s a way to achieve peace and tranquility of mind, while ascending to higher consciousness. But what makes it different is the fact that, according to Kohn, “zuowang demands the complete abolition of all sensory perception and conscious evaluation.” In plain English, this means that you focus your awareness deep within the limitless depths of your own soul by letting go of all of the senses that connect you to the world, such as sight, smells, touch, sounds, taste, and thoughts. It’s only when you are able to rid yourself of those senses that you can actually get a glimpse of that peaceful and higher consciousness that we’re all wanting so badly to realize. But you have to destroy your senses and destroy your thoughts in order to sit in oblivion.

In both Taoist and Zen circles, inner peace, happiness, and higher realms of consciousness aren’t something that you attain outside of yourself. These things are already there, deep inside of you. The more far-gone you are from inner peace (like I was), the deeper inside yourself you have to go. You have to sit and forget about everything all around you and journey into the vastness of your inner, limitless universe that lies inside of you. There is nothing outside of you that you can stretch out and reach for, but there is everything inside of you that you can realize. That includes inner peace, contentment, and happiness.

nly3glSitting in oblivion involves destroying whatever sense of “self” you have in relation to the outside world in order to look inward for the answers you seek. So in a sense, you have to “burrow down in and Blow Up the Outside World.”

It’s been more than 20 years since I’ve heard this song, and as I’ve mentioned before, it’s still my anthem. But nowadays, I’m not wishing to blow up the world out of hatred and resentment, but out of love and compassion. Because it’s only when I find peace within myself that I can find peace with the world. The reason why I’ve become involved in healing is because I’ve come to grips with the fact that I’m angry, not because I don’t care, but because I care immensely. I’m angry because I see the way humans treat each other (and everything else on the planet) and I want to fix it. So I use that anger as motivation to help others find peace of mind so they can make much clearer and more compassionate decisions for themselves and others. Bringing peace to this world means everything to me, even if I’m only doing it one person at a time through my healing practice. I’m here to bring comfort to those who’ve been scarred by the same society that’s hurt me. Like a wounded healer, I truly understand their pain, and I’ll do anything within my power to help. I truly believe that the more individual lives I help change, the closer we’ll be to a better society.

So as you can see, sitting in oblivion helped changed my life.

Sitting in oblivion is a powerful practice to bring you inner peace and to transform your life. Just like any meditation technique, it’s a difficult practice to meditate for several minutes a day. And that’s why they call it a “practice.” In the same way you can’t lift 300lbs over your head overnight, you won’t ascend to a higher consciousness overnight either. But I’m proof that it’s possible to go from someone who’s close to giving up on this world, to someone who’s found peace. And all you have to do is sit down, shut up, and Blow Up The Outside World.

Moving on

A few weeks ago I found out something about my Taoist master that was both disappointing and angering to me. Without going into much detail, I decided to leave both priesthood program and the Taoist lineage altogether. It was a tough decision to say goodbye after all of the hard work, time, and money I’ve invested into this pursuit, but it was something that had to be done. Even though I feel a bit betrayed and misled by him, I’m still grateful for all of his teachings, and will always honor him as my shifu (master), but it’s time to move on in a different direction.

While on my search for another Taoist shifu in a legitimate lineage, I’ll still be continuing my studies in clinical qigong so I can professionally enter the realm of energy healing, which I’ve found that it complements my acupuncture practice really well.

I’ve often asked myself why I’d need to become a Taoist priest, or at the very least, why would I need to have a Taoist shifu when I can just study Taoist philosophies instead? I don’t I believe my endeavors are of such an egotistical nature that I need to call myself a “priest,” but I do believe that belonging to a time-honored lineage and to study with a shifu will take my practice to a much deeper place. In the same way that I study acupuncture and clinical qigong energy healing, it’s all for duty. I’ve raised my hand to help humanity in the deepest way, and if a shifu says that I understand Tao practice very well, then I can teach it to my patients in hopes that Tao practice will change their lives the way it changed mine.

So during the course of my previous Taoist priesthood program – the one I just left – I had a series of written assignments that were to be compiled into a sort of “thesis” or “treatise” as my final project, to show how much I understand Tao practice, especially the meditative aspect of it. Since I’m no longer writing for the purpose of priesthood, I guess I’ll share it here.

In honor of my Master

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Me with Doctor Alan Uretz

Back in September of 2008, I stood outside of Midwest College of Oriental Medicine anxiously anticipating the first of many classes of what was to be a long journey into the field of holistic medicine. Nervously, I was standing alone watching the cars roll by in the Saturday morning Uptown Chicago traffic when I turned around to see a tall, thin man, wearing a dress shirt and tie, slacks, Chuck Taylors, and a cowboy hat walking into the school. He had the air of a collegiate professor with the demeanor of a punk rocker. “If that’s one of my professors,” I said to myself, “I’m in the right place.” As I walked inside the classroom, I looked up at our professor and found that it was him.

I’ll never forget that first class on our first day of school. I was scared and anxious, knowing next to nothing about Chinese medicine, but somehow I found myself in the middle of a Masters program for it. It was intimidating and exceedingly foreign to me. But the moment Doc spoke, his voice resonated with experience, authority, and passion, with a soft, underlying tone of compassion riddled with the wisdom one can only garner after a lifetime of trials and tribulations. During his welcome speech, he didn’t speak to us as if we were students in the midst of the sterile environment of academia, he spoke to us as friends and future colleagues. He knew nothing of us at the time, yet we were as familiar to him as apprentices that he personally took under his wing. He spoke and looked at us endearingly, as if to say “Kids, I’ve been there. I’ve been you. Let’s enjoy this together. Let’s live this path together.” We weren’t alone on this formidable journey. His energy was infectious and his passion was captivating. He welcomed us to the school, to the program, and thanked us for taking part in the medicine that was to revolutionize the country. We were going to change a lot of lives and help a lot of people to find comfort in their suffering. And it started right then and there in that classroom, face to face with a brilliant man who was going to teach us all we need to know to change the world of healing. I’ve never been inspired so viscerally in my life. His reassuring tone confirmed that I belonged exactly where I was sitting at the moment, that I was where I was meant to be. After so many years of feeling uneasy in my own skin, lost in this tumultuous world, he welcomed me home. And with him – at that very moment – I finally found a glimpse of hope.

Throughout the years of getting to know him, I’ve felt within his voice and saw within his eyes the pain and turbulence that was his life. The hurt and sorrow, and the struggle to be a sensitive creature in such an unforgiving world. I saw myself in him. There are only a few spaces where people like us can turn to for solace, and that’s the arts. Doc mastered the musical, performing, philosophical, and martial arts. But his greatest achievement was his mastery of the art of Traditional Chinese Medicine. Indulging in all of the arts that he loved, and by merely being his own eclectic and eccentric self, he was able to heal, inspire, and to help change lives. And by doing that, he found his inner joy. He taught me the value of being unapologetically true to your wild, weird self. And through him, I learned that when all else fails, the greatest way to heal yourself was to heal and inspire others.

I’m now keenly aware of my own grief from Doc’s passing. I simply miss him. I lament the fact that I didn’t spend as much time as I wanted with him. I wish that I could listen to his horribly dry jokes and to see him smile and to hear him snicker through his teeth just one last time. Most of all, I’ll miss his friendship, his influence, and his guidance. He helped me change my life.

I regret that I won’t be able to make it to his life’s celebration hosted by Midwest College in the coming days due to my obligations to my patients. But in that way, I’m honoring him in the way an apprentice forever honors his master… by carrying on his teachings. And I know in my heart that as long as I’m a healer, he’ll always be with me. Because of the wisdom that Doc has transmitted to me, now a professional acupuncturist myself… through every patient, through every single person that I’m able to bring at least an ounce of peace and comfort to, the healing spirit of Dr. Alan Uretz – my teacher, mentor, and friend – lives on.

Thank you for everything, Doc.

 

Happy Valentine’s Day

“To love at all is to be vulnerable.” – CS Lewis (via Zen Pencils

To all of my single friends, I’ve been there.

All those times you gave another person your all. Your best. Your soul. And they just chewed you up. They devoured you. And spit you out. Maybe they laughed at you while they were doing it. And it left you reeling with the resounding feeling of being alone, emotionally battered, and vulnerable.

I’ve been there.

I remember the grueling nights, all cried out. You wanna cry more just to release all that pain, but you ran out of tears. So you lay there clutching yourself, wondering if this pain is real. It’s very real. It hurts so badly you find it hard to muster enough strength to stand up. 

You bet I’ve been there.

And you see your friends happily coupled, happily married. A sort of resentment grows within you and you lock yourself away from the world. From life. From love. 
“I don’t care how nice they think they are, nobody is ever going to destroy me again,” I said to myself. So I closed myself off from the world. 
Yup, I’ve definitely been there. 

But then I realized how much is out there. So many people and cultures I’ve yet to experience. So although I closed myself off from “love,” I opened myself up to more friendships and the vastly different walks of life. My heart became open to the bigger realm of the world, and began to enjoy life once again. And after several years of nurturing myself, learning about  myself, and being compassionate towards myself, I met someone. At first I was careful, but realized that the more guarded I was, the less this wonderful woman could see the true me.

And that’s when I discovered that true strength is allowing yourself to become vulnerable enough to give and receive compassion. 

Compassion is what unifies us and allows us to experience oneness. My pain and joys are yours, and yours are mine. Without compassion, there’s no true love.

The moment you open your heart up to the bigger world in order to evolve and experience compassion towards others in its truest and most organic form, you’ll find that other equally compassionate people will seek you like a flashlight in the dark. 

So on Valentine’s Day, while couples are annoyingly expressing their love towards each other in front of you, there’s no need to hit up Tinder for a quickie, or express how you resent others, or how you resent this dumb materialistic Hallmark holiday (can you tell I’m with you here?!). Simply turn off all media and, as Chuang Tzu would say, cultivate yourself. Learn more about yourself, nurture yourself, and be compassionate towards yourself.

Open up your heart to the bigger picture of the world, and you’ll find that there’s others – hurt, lost, lonely, emotionally bruised, and looking for light – just like you.