"How old are you?" and "How old do you feel?" are two very different questions. They are questions of external versus internal; questions of authenticity versus a pseudo-you; and questions of freedom versus inhibition. Your outward appearance tells a very different story than your inner truth, if you can reveal it.
The world around us is surrounded by pointing fingers, lines in the sand, and razor sharp words of criticism. The amount of inflexibility in those who enact these destructive motives grows larger every minute they get older. The physical body, as it ages, changes in similar ways. Muscles get tighter; blood vessels get narrower; synapses in the brain fire slower; and our steps get shorter. It seems like we are heading downhill at an alarming speed as we age. But, as I like to say, that's one way of looking at it.
When was the last time you did something your parents told you growing up was either dangerous, difficult, or dirty?
Another way of looking at it is as if everyday we are getting younger. How do we do this? With each day your body gets older, you hold on to the young, free-willed, inspiring, and open-minded you. Can you remember one of your most precious and happiest childhood memories? When was the last time you let yourself experience it? When was the last time you skipped down the street? When was the last time you did something your parents told you growing up was either dangerous, difficult, or dirty? Perhaps you tell your own children these things!
If parents, teachers, and adults in general have the most influence on how children grow and develop their own personalities, then what are you doing to maintain your own inner child?
Can you access him or her at anytime you want?
Could you dance freely in the middle of a busy sidewalk?
Could you sing out loud in a big park?
Could you make up a song with only silly bathroom words that we yell at our kids for saying?
Your experience in life is determined by your ability to enjoy every moment. And if you have a difficult time letting go of your thoughts and beliefs about how life should be or about how other people should act, then your experience is going to be even more of a challenge. So much of a challenge that others will have a hard time being in your presence.
My suggestion to you is to awaken your inner child by first focusing on the most enjoyable experiences of your childhood. Close your eyes and re-experience them. Then, find a way to bring them back to life. Re-awaken your inner child by shedding the shrouds of judgement; the expectations of adulthood; and the belief that the good days are behind you. For the best days are ahead of you if you continue to look forward, move freely, and perhaps even dance a little on the way.
So, go nudge the little one inside you and tell them it's time to wake up.
You may have seen recently that I have decided to start a kid’s martial arts class starting on September 10. I want to share with you a few reasons why I chose to restart this old journey. First though, let me share with you a story about how I began working with children.
Nearly 15 years ago, in a small western Pennsylvania town, I was offered my first opportunity to teach my very own children’s martial arts class. When I received the news, I was both excited and fearful. I knew it was something I was prepared to do, but I had zero experience doing it on my own. I thought for days about what material I should focus on when teaching these rambunctious 4 and 5 year olds. Dare I teach them to how to make a proper fist, how to kick, how to eventually wield a long wooden staff or metal sword? Was I qualified to do so? I mean, what was it my teacher saw in me that said “teacher” written on it? So many thoughts ran through my head, I had trouble standing on my own two feet from the weight of it all.
Then, all of a sudden, one single image entered my mind.
I imagined myself being a child. I wasn’t sure why, but I was immediately moved to tears. I began imagining myself standing there with these precious children having no other responsibility than simply trusting and following the instructions of the teacher in front of them. Then I began imagining myself being a child standing at the front of the room, as the teacher. Sounds silly, but let me share with you why this image completely changed my entire perspective on teaching to this day.
In order to be a fearless leader, you have to be a fearless follower.
I believe that in order to guide others, you must be able to imagine yourself walking with them, speaking their words, carrying out their actions as well as their ways of being. You have to become one of them for as long as it takes so that you understand how they best learn and absorb the in knowledge you are teaching them. And in order to be a fearless leader, you have to be a fearless follower. I had to make the decision to not be afraid to be a child again. I had to build trust through finding a way to connect, and in the moment of imagining myself as a child again I found exactly what I needed. I had no obligation to meet another adult's wishes or expectations, nor did I have any obligation to teach these children to do perfect punches, kicks, tumbling techniques, or prepare them to win a national championship like I would do several years later. I was simply there to teach. To teach like a child, to build a sense of trust, to be their friend, and to be their leader. I finally realized my ultimate goal when it came to working with children 15 years ago, and even to this day, was to help sculpt the future of every child by leaving a lasting positive impression in their minds and perhaps even a few words of wisdom all by seeing myself as a child.
Our potential should never be clouded by the thoughts of another but rather lifted up by them.
Our roles in life are so often clouded by our own expectations of what we think other people want us to do that we forget what it is we actually CAN do. Our potential should never be clouded by the thoughts of another but rather lifted up by them. The responsibility I see myself having as an instructor is to walk side by side with those I teach. My skillset and experience are the guiding instincts leading us together on the journey inwards to self-understanding and then again outwards to understanding the people in our lives.
So, if you think I am starting this new class to expand my business and add a little revenue to my balance sheet, you’ve only focused on the portion that matters to your typical business owner. I, however, am not your typical business owner. Yes, these factors are certainly important, but I believe focusing on people like you is a much more valuable approach, and it is the driving reason for what I do. My purpose, whether it be while I teach classes, treat patients, or speak at events, is to help as many people as possible, children and adults, experience what it truly means to live life at their fullest potential and help them understand how they can do it every day of their lives.
In the end, my contribution to society is to enhance the future of our world by starting at the very beginning, with the pure and uninhibited minds and bodies of children. If I can help even one single child explore the amazing world around them through gentle guidance and endless encouragement, my purpose in life will have been fulfilled.
With that said, I hope to see you at our first class on September 10.
(More info on the class and registration can be found here.)
Peacefully and Passionately,
A Message from an Acupuncturist
It is 9 o’clock in the morning, and you are searching the internet for a doctor who can take a look at your ankle you rolled during an evening soccer match yesterday. The pain is bearable yet still throbbing, not to mention your ankle is now the size of a tennis ball. While searching, you come across several acupuncturists not far from where you live. This reminds you of your close friend's sports injury who told you was helped with acupuncture. Recalling this, you look further and notice some of these acupuncturists appear to have Asian names and some do not. Assuming your thoughts are correct, you choose to contact an Asian practitioner because, of course, they MUST know more about what they are doing since they are Asian. Plus, their methods are probably more authentic. Right?
This common assumption is incorrect and is damaging to the profession of Oriental Medicine. It spreads even further into the many fields of medicine serving the public today leading to further discrimination of minorities, ethnicities, and genders. Since when has it become so acceptable to discriminate against a trained, licensed, and well-qualified health professional whose only interest is helping you live your life with as little suffering as possible? Dare I insert the word “racism” into this message and invoke a conversation laced with hate? This is not my intention, but it seems the injection of such is nearly unavoidable. Sadness ensues me when I hear that simply because my race is different from others, I must “learn to accept the truth” that was etched by others into the foundation of medical history. A foundation seemingly built upon “should-bes” rather than “could-bes”.
Yes, I am not Asian. What’s your point?
Times change. Shouldn’t people do just the same? Sure, I am not fortunate enough to be a descendant of an ancient lineage of Asian doctors famous for serving the masses, developing world-renowned healing techniques, or safeguarding the health of a royal family. What I am, however, is inspired, motivated, and interested. Inspired by the history, literature, and origins of the medicine I practice; motivated by my mentors, teachers, students, and patients; and interested in the unique life stories of people like yourself. Healers are not formed or defined by their ethnic roots let alone by similar patterns repeated in society. They are also not defined by what they see in their patients (e.g. health conditions), but rather by what they help their patients to see in themselves and how they empower them to change and make wise choices for the sake of their own health. More personally, when I search for someone to provide me with care, I refrain from making assumptions about their abilities I have yet to experience firsthand. For these abilities may be exactly what I need on my road to recovery. Of course, one's experience is an acceptable form of measure when making the choice to have someone evaluate your health. Experience, though, is achieved no differently than the height and strength of an oak tree. The seed must be planted and nurtured well enough for it to sprout and begin its journey out into the world.
If only we could learn to listen to someone’s story without writing the end before it was told.
Sadly, during my years of exploring the Asian medicinal and martial arts, I have been a victim of subliminal discrimination, false assumptions, and impossible expectations. I have been viewed as an outcast, thought of as “the unique one in the family”, and doubted repeatedly to the point where others give up and change their career altogether. I have been called in Chinese a "waiguoren", or literally "outside country person", which is ironic because I'm fairly sure I was born in this country where I am also licensed to practice this medicine. Wouldn't that technically make you, the name-caller, the outsider? This is beside the point of this message though, and while I endured this constant bombardment of negativity and bullying, I studied rigorously, forged my mind, and trained my body. Not so that I could defend myself, but rather so that I could learn to open my eyes and heart for the sake of every patient that enters my treatment room. And to this day, I still repeat these previously painful words in my mind so that I may remind myself they are not definitions of who I am or who I have become. For the people who have uttered them do not have permission to define my existence or evaluate my abilities with false pretense. If only we could learn to listen to someone’s story without writing the end before it was told.
Your healing has nothing to do with who I am, only who you will become.
So again, yes, I am not Asian. Who am I then, you ask? I am someone who cares. I am someone with hope. I am someone worth reaching out to who will care for your well-being, no matter your race, gender, appearance, or societal status. I am someone whose hope is for you to create memories laughing and playing with your children while they are still young and innocent; to remember what it was like to open your heart to your beloved mother and father before they took their last breath; to never forget the feeling of the soft breeze grazing across your skin as you stand in your hometown hundreds or thousands of miles away. True healing comes from within ourselves and will take you anywhere you wish to go. Besides, your healing has nothing to do with who I am, only who you will become.
So, I ask you. The next time you search for a care provider, will you choose based on their name, their ethnicity, their gender, or their ivy-league education, or lack thereof? Will you close the fable-filled storybook modern society has been reading to you over the years and begin writing your own story of how you see the world of healthcare and how you wish to be cared for? Have you even asked yourself HOW you wished to be cared for? It is certainly a conversation worth having with yourself.
After all, you may not be Asian either. But there is certainly no one else like you. Never forget that.
I have one question for you.
What would your life be like without any stress? Can you even imagine it? Would you know how to live without it? Would you eventually want it back?
Now, I'm not pretending that I know what "stress" is for you. In fact, I don't believe the word "stress" is an accurate description of what anyone claims it to actually be. In my experience, we simply use this word as a label, like we do with many others, because we are unable to describe what it is we are actually experiencing when the things we call "stressors" appear in our lives.
Sure, you cannot control certain situations, such as when someone comes to your desk asking for your assistance with a task when you're already buried in work. What you CAN do is manage the situation by observing your response. Observe what happens in you physically:
Does your breathing increase in frequency?
Does your heart start to pump faster?
Do you hold your tongue and prevent yourself from saying what you REALLY want to say?
Isn't it interesting how our decisions and our reactions/responses change our bodies' physiology in an instant? Also, did you know that the chemical response of generating an emotion lasts approximately for 90 seconds only? Interesting, considering the stories that go on in our heads easily continue for MUCH LONGER than 90 seconds. (Perhaps we should all call ourselves great storytellers like Bill Cosby.) But seriously though, after 90 seconds of listening to your co-worker ask for your assistance and you then responding to his or her request, do you often find yourself hung up on the situation repeating it in your head, or making stories up about this person never doing any work and always passing it off onto others? If so, you're digging your own grave at a very rapid and emotionally-charged pace. By learning to manage your reactions/responses in simple situations such as these, it is quite possible that you may never even reach the 90 second point.
Awareness of your emotions is the key to the door for managing stress.
Observe what happens inside of you during similar situations. Do the same things always appear? Does your breathing always rise up into your chest and occur more frequently? Do you clench your jaw automatically? Does your face always blush? If you picked apart each physiological response that happened in these situations and pondered about them, I'm certain you could come up with a way to limit the length of its presence in the moment, and perhaps for good.
Understanding what happens inside of your body and how it manifests on the outside will determine your ability to live with or without "stress". So, the next time you encounter what you consider to be a "stressful" situation, keep your senses open. After the situation passes, reflect upon what just happened and understand why your body did what it did. Do this and the relationship you have with your body will strengthen, and who knows, maybe even your relationship with others will as well.
As I am making my way home on the sometimes dreaded and unpredictable metro bus last week, the idea for this blog came into my mind. Before I go any further though, let's trace back 45 minutes prior to getting off the bus...
I am standing at Farragut West station waiting anxiously for the next metro train that will carry my tired and aching body deep underground at 60 mph towards my stop 7 stations away. Finally, the train arrives. It is packed full of passengers eagerly searching for a seat or the prime standing location where they can lean against a pole or a wall. All of them look just as tired as I do.
Thoughts begin to race through my mind leading me to question my reason for riding on this very train, in this moment of time, and what my purpose is and if I will ever achieve it. Am I happy in this moment? My answer depends on what I relate the question to. I would say though in relation to the situation in this moment where I stand on a sardine-packed train with hundreds of other people, I would not describe this as a moment of extreme joy or bliss of any kind. My thoughts begin to race faster as I stare around the train at the other passengers. Not one person is smiling...except for the guy two seats away watching something on YouTube it seems. (How does he get a signal and not me?!) I come back to my question of purpose and importance again. Am I really living the life I was truly gifted with, or for? And, am I able to inject my own passion into it without hesitation?
Then I had a moment of realization. Even if I am NOT living the life I believe I was meant to live, there is always tomorrow! This realization immediately reminded me of my martial arts competition days when we would train the entire summer covered in our own (and our classmates') blood, sweat, and tears preparing for the US National Competition. The final days before the training, particularly the last day, we didn't train nearly as hard. Why? We needed to save our energy, calm our minds, and relax our bodies to allow our confidence to soar and our camaraderie to intensify so strongly that we would resemble (and almost feel like) a clan of warriors more so than a team of competitors. The most important day for us was tomorrow; the beginning of the US National Competition. The day our team of "warriors" had prepared for all year, and perhaps some had even lived for.
Take this for example. I'm sure at some point in your life, you have studied for a test, correct? Did you ever try to cram for a test the night before, even if you felt prepared? How much actually sank in? Did it make you feel more confident or more anxious on the day of the test? What would have happened if you reviewed only the material you felt was most important and left the rest of the day to relax and honor yourself for the time and effort you put into studying for this test? After all, TOMORROW is the most important day! The day of the test!
So, what is the message I am passing along in both of these examples, you might ask?
Tomorrow is the most important day of your life!
Everything you have done today, everything you are doing right now, and everything you will do during the rest of this day before you wake up tomorrow morning is all for the sake of tomorrow. We never know what experiences we will have, what moments will change our life, or what acquaintances will become (or begone) in the day to come. What we DO know is that tomorrow is waiting for us and is depending on us. The night of sleep you are about to embark on before you awake tomorrow morning is your reset button. From the moment your eyes close, your body, your mind, and your spirit recharge until soft beams of light slowly grab hold of your eyelids and gently help them open reminding you that tomorrow has arrived; the day you have lived all of yesterday for (and everyday prior).
Tomorrow has become today. The spotlight is on YOU and your performance of today determines the applause you will receive from life. And here's a little secret...life is ALWAYS cheering for you! So remember, tomorrow is and will always be the most important day of your life. It does not mean that today is less important. What is does mean is that tomorrow gives you a reason to live for...again and again and again.
There is only one today, but there are endless tomorrows.
Remember this phrase and erase every regret you have from today because tomorrow...you get another chance.
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inspirational ideas on healthy living through eastern medicine, optimism, and possibility through empowerment.