1050 Larrabee Avenue, Ste. 206
Bellingham, WA 98225 · 360.752.0457
I am a master’s degree graduate (acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine) of the New England School of Acupuncture, the oldest school of acupuncture in the U.S., and am licensed as an East Asian medicine practitioner in Washington state, with a full practice in Bellingham. I am trained in both Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) style and Japanese acupuncture and am a diplomate of the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine, which governs national standards of professionalism in this field. In addition, I am a nationally certified massage therapist, a graduate of the Potomac Massage Training Institute in Washington, D.C.
Personal experience with acupuncture’s swift, powerful healing abilities for my own debilitating jaw pain many years ago led me to explore ancient teachings and philosophies that resonated with my own world view.
My work in the healing arts has been reinforced by the practice of yoga, tai chi, qi gong, and meditation. My intent in my practice is to work in partnership with each individual to integrate body, mind, and spirit through attention to diet, physical activity, posture, breathing, and emotional health.
My practice includes diverse approaches that will support this partnership, particularly a careful combination of acupuncture, Chinese herbs, and hands-on modalities when indicated. Especially important to me is to know how individuals experience their symptoms, what meaning these symptoms hold in their lives, and how they cope.
I view acupuncture and herbal medicine not as simply tools in a bag to try to “fix” a complaint but as a way to heal deeper lifestyle imbalances that cause pain and ill health. Integral to my practice is my longstanding and firm belief in the connectedness of all things.
The Story of the Badger
In the 1980s I was working at Gallaudet University in Washington, D.C. as editor of the university’s award-winning magazine and manager of editorial services for the entire campus. I was under constant deadline pressure and a good deal of stress, I was not fulfilled by institutional writing, and I began grinding my teeth and clenching my jaw. This created severe head, neck, and shoulder pain, to the point where I could no longer chew solid food. I was subsisting on soup, yogurt, mashed bananas, and other soft foods, and even then I was in constant pain. On a scale of 1 to 10 (10 being terrible), my pain would often go to 12 or 15, especially at night. At times, in the wee hours, I felt unable to go on.
I saw an orthodontist, who told me that I had temporomandibular joint (TMJ) dysfunction and would need oral surgery to section both upper and lower jaws and pull them forward, followed by several years of braces. I was in such despair that I signed up for the surgery. As the date approached, the orthodontist began telling me about the risks of the surgery, including potential facial paralysis. In alarm, at the last minute, I backed out. I decided I needed to find an alternative.
Around this time I impulsively attended a weekend retreat of shamanic drumming and guided meditation, during which attendees were instructed to ask for and visualize an animal guide to help lead us inward as we entered a trance-like state. Feeling a little skeptical, I sat with eyes closed, hoping for a sleek, exotic, animal to appear in my mind’s eye, something like a lynx or jaguar or panther. But what appeared quite clearly was a small, odd-looking, shaggy creature with long claws and big sharp teeth that was grubbing ferociously in dirt and leaves: a badger. I’d never seen a live badger before, but I recognized it immediately from some long-ago memory of a picture. And I was a little disappointed. What could this mean?
Later when I read about badgers I realized what this animal symbolized for me. Badgers are fierce, courageous, persistent, and aggressive. They’ve been described as “mortally stubborn” and “plucky.” They will fight other larger animals to the death, break out of seemingly inescapable cages, and stand their ground when threatened by humans, animals, or even pickup trucks. I got the message that I needed to become aggressive and have the courage to use unconventional means to bring about my own healing from this awful pain I was in. No one but me was going to figure out how to fix my situation.
I began getting regular massage therapy and joined a yoga class. I began psychotherapy to resolve old issues. I did a round of 10 sessions of biofeedback training just to cope with the pain. Early every morning I got up and meditated for 20 minutes, something I’d never done before and which at first seemed like torture. I was spending all my spare time—and considerable money—in trying to find relief. All of these things helped, of course, and they opened up a new world for me that helped me discover a spiritual core. But the pain continued relatively unabated and I was still unable to eat solid food.
It wasn’t until I went for acupuncture, after more than a year of struggle, that my pain went away … and never came back.
In the fourth or fifth session the acupuncturist put small needles around my jaw joint and at various other places on my body, turned down the lights, and left the room. As I lay there I began sensing a shift–I could swear that I felt the plates of my skull moving ever so slightly. After the session I went home and within a few days I was eating normally again. The pain was gone, and it’s never come back. I was astounded, and I became a believer in the power of acupuncture.
My jaw joint had not been the problem; it was severe muscle clenching. I had come very close to having unnecessary surgery that might have left me with worse problems. It was a lesson to me, one among many that my situation provided. A friend said to me during the worst of my experience something to the effect that “pain is a teacher, if you can listen to what it’s saying.” I didn’t want to hear it at the time, but looking back I know it to be true.
My experience put me on a new path in life: I first went to massage therapy school part time for almost two years and when I graduated I resigned as editor and opened a private massage therapy practice. Getting my master’s degree in acupuncture within a few years was just a natural progression. Because of my own experience with pain, I can fully identify with patients I see in my office–I remember how that felt. Not surprisingly, one of my specialties is head, jaw, and neck pain.
When I was in acupuncture school I heard similar “miracle” stories from fellow classmates, experiences like mine that led them also to this ancient medicine. I’ve seen it in my practice: longstanding, intractable conditions that haven’t responded to conventional Western treatments that often do turn around with acupuncture. And each time it does seem like a miracle.
Through all the years that have followed, the badger has been my friend and totem animal, reminding me of the need to sometimes be fierce and courageous when it comes to taking care of self.