Warmth in the Cold

Frozen Lake

by Ryan Collins, L.Ac.

Everyone thinks I’m crazy when I mention that one of my favorite books is Ethan Frome. I don’t disagree with most of the criticisms I’ve heard, but I still can’t stop myself from picking it up every year or so. The way Edith Wharton writes about the New England winter utterly electrifies me:

“The cold was less sharp than earlier in the day and a thick fleecy sky threatened snow for the morrow. Here and there a star pricked through, showing behind it a deep well of blue. In an hour or two the moon would push over the ridge behind the farm, burn a gold-edged rent in the clouds, and then be swallowed by them. A mournful peace hung on the fields, as though they felt the relaxing grasp of the cold and stretched themselves in their long winter sleep.”

What really seizes me about her book, though, is how the cold makes the warmth blossoming in the characters all the more apparent. My heart melts to see the loneliness in the characters turn to connection and softness. (I don’t want to spoil anything — go read it yourself!)

I’ve been thinking about this a lot when people come to Blue Lotus. This has been a hard winter for many folks mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. It melts my heart to be able to be there for them, whether it’s holding space for them at our meditation group, being there when an acupuncture treatment finally offers someone a taste of relief, or energizing acupuncture points with moxa. It is such a remarkable privilege to be there when they touch the warmth in their heart that was never really lost.

The energy of winter is to be still – we feel it in the snow, in the cold, in hibernation. So if that’s what your heart is yearning for, I pray you can offer it that. Whatever the needs of your body, mind, or heart may be, don’t hesitate to let Anna and I know if there’s anything we can do to help you meet them.

Is holiday stress wearing you down?

It can show up in different ways. For one person, they may feel like their nervous system is turned up to 11 – like a buzz that won’t let them relax. For another, it’s a vague sense that their body is working against them. Some folks just feel it as pain; others feel like every sensory stimulus is an assault.

It may just be holiday stress. But it may also be what the Five Element school of Chinese medicine refers to as Aggressive Energy.

Anna and I often find it showing up more frequently around the holidays, and not just because Christmas music is blaring everywhere. The increased stress, harsh weather, and strained interpersonal interactions create fertile ground for it to settle in. The most typical causes are prolonged illness, intensive medical treatments, or sustained emotional distress, but sometimes, just the chaos of the weeks after Thanksgiving seems to be enough.

So what is Aggressive Energy?

According to Five Element Acupuncture theory, when our body, mind, or spirit are overwhelmed by harsh or toxic conditions, our energy can turn against itself. The very forces within us which are supposed to nourish us instead attack us.

To drain the Aggressive Energy, there’s a set protocol which uses acupuncture points on the upper, middle, and lower back. It’s an entire treatment in and of itself; if you were to try to treat other conditions during the same treatment, you’d likely feel dizzy or weak.

Clearing Aggressive Energy can have wide-ranging effects, but most typically, people tell me that it’s like they can finally rest again. Of course, everyone is different, and the strength of Chinese medicine is that each treatment is adapted to each person’s unique presentation. So while draining Aggressive Energy is a low-impact treatment that won’t cause harm if someone doesn’t have it, it’s still best used as part of an integrated treatment plan.

So, if you’re feeling off this holiday season, give us a call. Clearing AE may help!

Embodied Relaxation

When I first started meditating, I didn’t think it was for me. At the group where I’d sit, we would meditate for 25 minutes, watching our breath, and every time it felt like the longest 25 minutes of my life. I’d feel tremendous anxiety and discomfort, I’d get headaches, and it seemed like every part of my body was just brimming with pain. And to be honest, it wasn’t unfamiliar: all that discomfort, all that pain was something that had dogged me as long as I could remember, surfacing in whatever quiet moment arose during the day. I’d spent my whole life trying to keep it at bay, and after looking in many places for help with it, I hoped meditation could make it all go away.

As it turned out, I didn’t need it to.

The sense of wholeness and peace I was striving for was to be found by dropping the striving.

That’s pretty much Buddhism 101, but I didn’t know how to actually carry that out. I knew I was supposed to relax and let go, but how did I do that? Sitting with meditation groups, working with meditation teachers, and going on retreats helped me get clear on how to actually do that in an experiential, embodied way.

Last night at our meditation group, we explored that. While our focus was on noticing our breath, first we walked through a few exercises to make sure we were using the right kind of effort. I thought I’d write a brief blog post to share just one of those exercises. It can be helpful at releasing latent tension in our body, and connecting experientially with our capacity to let go. (Please note: if you have pain in your hands, feet, or abdomen, please skip this exercise.)

Sit up straight, but not rigid. It’s best to not have your back against a chair so that your mind is alert, but if there’s significant pain feel free to sit back.

Relax your body. Don’t use any more effort than you need to in order to remain sitting.

Now, clench your hands into fists. Don’t clench them so hard that there’s pain, but put in a decent amount of tension.

As your hands remain clenched, notice the tension there. Notice the actual, felt sensation of the tension.

Now release your hands, noticing the actual, felt sensation. Let that permeate up your arms.

It may be that there are areas where the tension does not release. That’s OK. In that case, rather than you bringing relaxation to it, you relax to it. Give it 100% permission to be tense. Don’t fight it. Don’t ignore it either; allow it to be there, taking up as much space as it would like.

Do the same with your feet. Clench them up. Not too tight, we don’t want to get a cramp. But enough so that you can feel some tension there. Notice the actual, felt sensation.

Now, release your feet, and again, notice the actual, felt sensation. Let it permeate through your legs.

Next, tense your abdomen. Notice the actual, felt sense of the tension.

And, again, release. Feel the sensations in your abdomen. Feel them spread.

We carry so much tension in our bodies. When we resist what is going on, we tense our bodies in response. Taking some time to notice that, allow it, and release it gives us practice in dropping the war against our experience. There is an incredible richness, satisfaction, and nourishment in ending that striving.

Introducing the Blue Lotus Meditation Group

Earlier this week, Anna and I were discussing our vision for our work at Blue Lotus. At one point, Anna said that she wanted to offer people tools so that they can live vibrantly, and not be burdened by the things life throws at them.

That’s a commitment Anna has always had, and I’ve always admired how well she carries it out. When I heard her say it that day, though, it struck me deeply. Maybe it was time for me to do more.

Many of my friends and acquaintances have been facing difficult circumstances recently, and I’ve meditated with many of them one-on-one to help them get some palpable, embodied relief. But I’ve known that for myself, without a dedicated meditation group, I would not have been able to get over the initial hurdles that appeared for me when I began meditating.

Should you meditate? I don’t know! Do you feel tired in a way that you can’t recover from? Do you ever wish you could take a breather from your mind, your body, or your life circumstances? Does some nameless, placeless thing feel wrong? Do you wish you could reconnect to the freedom, the authenticity, the vibrancy you experienced as a kid? Meditation helped me with these things; it may be helpful to you, as well.

So, if you feel inclined to join us, I invite you to come sit with us. We’ll have chairs, backjacks, and cushions to sit on, and I’ll give some direction for folks who are new to meditating. While my background is Buddhist, I’ve studied forms of meditation from a variety of traditions, and the styles that we’ll be incorporating are open to people of all backgrounds.

There is an incredible richness to being authentic with others. I look forward to being with you.

Hello Spring!

By: Anna PantuDSCN1521so-Plenzick, D.O.M., L.Om.

Every season has a flavor or a tone. The change of seasons offer each of us an opportunity for change, growth and for new beginnings with in ourselves, our families, home, work and community. As we go about our daily activities much newness is available for us every step of the way.

We have made the huge transition through the quiet and stillness of Winter and have emerged into a more active state of being. The birds are singing, the air and sky are different, flowers are blooming and everything around us seems new again. We have even made it through the time change.

According to Chinese medicine, Springtime is the element of Wood and is a time of planning and for decision making. The Liver and Gall Bladder are the officials. The color is green, taste is sour, voice of shouting, emotions of anger, courage and benevolence. Of course it is the time of the wind.

At our house we have begun to plan our garden. We have already turned the soil to get ready to plant. We have also planned our summer vacation. How about that?

Reflect on: What are you planning for? How do you want your life to be this Spring? Take some time to connect with or to re-connect with your spirit. How, you ask, does one do this in such a busy world? Take one minute and stopbreath…and ask inwardly. Quiet now, and listen closely. You may relax for a moment, an idea or feeling may come to you. Keeping a journal is another way to connect inwardly.

One way I connect with my spirit is by going out into nature. A simple ten minute walk can do wonders to de-stress, clear my mind and to re-connect with my Self. That often will give me the space to listen to my inner voice.

Happy Spring, now go hug a tree!


Spring is a beautiful time of year to initiate new beginnings, so I thought that adding a blog to our website would be fitting. This blog will be a place for you to come to for interesting information about all sorts of things to do with health and the healing process. Along with me, Ryan will also be contributing to this effort in attempt to bring a greater awareness to the fields of Acupuncture and Asian Medicine. Enjoy your day, Anna