“Conquer your Mind and Conquer the world” ~Guru Nanak
I’ve been involved in western healthcare since I was 15 years old. It began with volunteering in various physiotherapy clinics. In the last 23 years it’s safe to say I’ve pretty much heard every story that people tell themselves about why they can’t get better. I’ve told myself the same beliefs. Those beliefs can be replayed over and over again like a pop song that you don’t really like but also can’t get out of your head. But instead of saying “Bye Bye Bye” to those beliefs or repeating worried filled thoughts in my head like the ‘baby shark’ song, they created a false safety that prevented me from not just getting back to my ‘old life’ but to working towards becoming the best version of myself. These anxiety driven patterns are even harder to recognize today as the world becomes more unsettled. Even today, these thoughts still come back, but I have a different relationship to them now. Has this happened to you? Are you aware of the limiting beliefs that prevent you from getting to where you want to be in your health?
Here are a few steps to help you get clear about your healing journey. Please note, this can be just a few steps or an infinite amount of steps. There are no rules.
First step: What is your intention?
I’m a creative person and like to explore a lot of different things. But if I don’t have a clear intention in anything I do, then most likely it will fall apart or I won’t stick with it. Having an intention is key. Having a pure intention is even more important. For most of my life I’ve only set intentions for healing when something is ‘off’ emotionally or physically. It’s only been in the last 5+ years that I’ve set intentions for healing even when I’m feeling well. This allowed me to understand deeper aspects of myself physically, emotionally and spiritually when I wasn’t busy trying to navigate a crisis or difficult transition. Sometimes I need the help of another healer, friend or mentor and sometimes not.
Here are a few questions to ask yourself when setting intentions on your healing journey.
Why do I want to heal?
This is a great first question. Is it to get back to sports? Pick up your grandchild? Sleep throughout the night? Not have to take Advil every day? These are all great intentions. I encourage you take it a step further and envision what life you would ideally have as your best future self. What would you be doing? Feeling? Seeing in your environment? Who would be surrounding you?
Am I willing to do what it takes to get where I want?
I know I’ve been in that spot where a healthcare professional has told me I really need to consider doing ‘x’ to achieve the health results I want. This can be as simple as slowing down. I was seeing an acupuncturist in Oregon on a regular basis years ago healing from kidney stones and receiving support for ongoing anxiety and depression. On every visit she asked me to slow down and not do too much when I wasn’t working. I thought slowing down and relaxing meant hanging out with friends and socializing more. I made my choices because I was afraid of being alone and truly getting to know myself despite being a typical privileged and white bodied ‘spiritually woke’ person. The same theme repeated in regards to my food choices. It was only when I decided that I was going to commit to my healing journey 100% that I started making progress. My body started to repair and build itself, I began to understand myself better, and I became clearer and confident in myself and my next steps in life. I also realized that this is a process and self compassion that’s necessary on the journey, but also not an excuse to not make the changes needed in the moment. I realized that I don’t have to wait until everything in life is aligned to start making the change I desired in my life NOW.
Second Step: Get to know your mind and the many parts of you really well.
The mind will make very detailed and intricate stories about why we can’t be the best versions of ourselves and receive help to achieve that. Below you will find some statements that I commonly hear from patients but I have also told myself. As much as we desire to be free from physical and emotional pain there is also a part of ourselves that wants to hold onto it. These parts were developed and often nurtured through consistent thoughts and habits long before the symptoms showed up. They are just now manifesting as physical symptoms in the body.
The physical and emotional aspects of ourselves are not separate. They are interlinked in fascinating and infinite ways. A foundational teaching in Chinese Medicine states that all disease in the body first starts with the imbalanced emotions. It’s necessary and ok to have negative emotions. It’s also necessary to understand with compassion what our negative stories are telling us on a deeper level. If the unbalanced emotions go ‘unchecked’ for too long they turn into habits in the physical world and then can eventually manifest as disease or injury in the body. For example, unchecked anxiety can manifest as reaching for chocolate every time life gets stressful. There’s nothing wrong with chocolate. It’s how much and why it’s eaten.
These parts of ourselves are very smart and have a unique way of telling us that thought is our identity. I know I have told myself “this is who I am” or “I am broken” or “I’ve always been this way”. Do these statements sound familiar to you too? These are parts of the self that are asking to be heard, seen and acknowledged and cared for. For me, I’ve come to learn these parts are not Bir Kaur, the spiritual warrior, but smaller parts that are often rooted in trauma. These parts are part of how I am but not who I am. The key is acknowledging these parts but not having these parts in the driver seat of life.
Step 3: Understand your stories and decide if you want to create a different story
Here are some statements/stories that my mind have created throughout my own healing journey. I encourage my patients to reframe their stories too. Have you noticed yourself saying something like this too?….
(Please note, the following content might make you feel uncomfortable, triggered or angry. That may actually be good information for you. Keep reading. I’ve included the word ‘potential’ in explaining the meaning for the specific story. However, each story can have many different meanings. That is something to explore with a somatic based psychotherapist or trained trauma specialist).
“I’ll try anything once”
The potential story meaning: I’m not sure if I want to commit to this so I’ll just do it this one time. This medicine is new to me and I don’t know what to expect.
The potential new story to create: I’m 100% committed to my process of healing. I am clear on my intention and have the option of changing my mind at any time given my future intentions are pure. I trust that my practitioner has the knowledge and willingness to clearly communicate what will happen in each session and why she/he/they are performing ‘x’ modality. I trust that I have the confidence to ask questions and be curious about my healing process. My practitioner will explain a defined treatment plan depending on their diagnostic findings. I understand that results can’t be guaranteed, but I am willing to stay open and curious. This will help me be committed to my healing process.
“I’ve seen everyone else and you’re my last resort”
The potential story meaning: I need someone to fix me
The potential new story: My body has the intelligence and intuition to know how to heal itself. I trust it and am willing to do what it takes to allow this process to unfold which may take time. I choose the right healing team to help me based on of my intuition and information I’m provided.
“I won’t feel significantly better until I have the surgery but I’ll keep coming to you for treatment in the meantime.”
The potential story meaning: I’ve already made up my mind that nothing is going to help me. I’m not sure why I am here.
The potential new story: I’m open to new possibilities of healing that I haven’t known before. I am open to the possibility that my symptoms can be managed better before the surgery (if I still need it) and may even get significantly better. This healing work may help prepare me for a faster recovery after the surgery.
“I tried ‘x’ modality with you once or twice and it didn’t work”
The potential story meaning: I need fast results NOW because I’m scared and exhausted from dealing with this.
The potential new story: I am compassionate with myself and others. I know the imbalances in my body took a long time to develop before they showed up as symptoms. I am patient with my body’s ability to heal itself in its own time and I trust to choose the right healing team to help me in this process. If I didn’t connect well with my practitioner, I am committed to continue my healing journey with another one.
“I already completed my treatment plan with you and feel great”
The potential story meaning: I feel fulfilled in all aspects of my being. I am completely in alignment and engaged within myself and the world. OR… I’m not sure if I am open to exploring more of what Chinese Medicine can offer me to help me be the best version of myself.
The new potential story: I understand that healing is an ongoing process, especially with Traditional Chinese Medicine. There’s no such thing as being ‘discharged’ from Chinese Medicine. Chinese Medicine is not only helpful in treating chronic disease and injury but it can prevent it with regular monthly sessions. I am committed to not only feeling great, but preventing illness, injury and disease. Chinese Medicine can help me recover faster when illness does happen and it can help me stay healthier longer. This is a great opportunity to understand myself on deeper levels now that I am not in pain, etc. I’m willing to commit to this process even if it means just showing up once a month.
“The location of your new clinic is too far away”
The potential story meaning: I’m not confident that I can make the time and effort to commit to my health.
The new potential story: I’m willing to see this as an opportunity and investment in my time, energy and money to show up for myself just as I would drive to see a good friend in need. If my practitioner really is too far away I’m willing to make the effort to schedule with one closer to me. I am open to asking for support from others so I can make my health a priority. When I make my health a priority, even when I am feeling good, I can be more present and engaged with myself, my work and those I care for.
“I haven’t done anything you suggested since my last session”
The potential story meaning: I don’t have clear intentions on why I am here. I’m not familiar with the stories my mind creates that prevent me from making these lifestyle changes and how much I really want my life to change.
The new potential story: I’m compassionate with myself when I don’t live up to my ideals. At the same time I’m willing to make a better effort to take one small step at a time. These small steps will eventually combine to help me get the most out of my treatments which will actually save me more time, money and energy in the end!
“I’m not making enough progress”
The potential story meaning: I am being impatient with my body’s healing process. I’m scared, worried, etc. that things won’t change.
The new potential story: I take full responsibility for my healing. It’s ok to feel all the positive and negative emotions during my healing journey. They all have a message for me that I am willing to hear, with courage. Healing is not a linear process and there will be ups and downs. I trust that I will choose the right practitioner for me and my practitioner is doing their best to help me. I also trust that my body will heal in its own time and that I can’t force this process. I’m willing to journal and track the small achievements I have made in the last few days/weeks/months. I am open to the possibility of noticing more and more subtle changes in my body and how I am engaged with the world physically and emotionally.
“I have a lot going on in life right now and can’t schedule an appointment”
The potential story meaning: I’m feeling overwhelmed with life right now and choose to not put anything else on my plate.
The potential new story: I am in full control of the choices I make despite the challenges life brings. I make my choices with calmness, integrity, thoughtfulness and compassion versus making choices with the stories my mind makes up as being ‘true’. Making the time to receive this treatment may actually help me feel less overwhelmed. I will speak to my practitioner if I am in financial hardship so we can co-create a treatment plan that works for me at this time. I make the time in my schedule for self care.I schedule my appointments in advance so I have something to look forward to and it will help me commit to my healing process.
“The weather is just getting nice and I want to be outside. I feel better when the weather is nice.”
The potential story meaning: (There’s nothing wrong with this!) It’s important for me to be out and receive nature.
The potential new story: I also understand that receiving Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) in the warmer months is like building up my body’s ‘savings account’ so I can feel more alive and have more increased immunity for when the fall/winter arrive. Receiving TCM when the seasons are changing is especially important so my body is less likely to get sick and my symptoms won’t be aggravated as much. I understand that even though I feel better when the weather is nicer, it doesn’t necessarily mean the underlying cause is resolved (which my acupuncturist can help with). My body, mind and spirit are directly related and interrelated with the land I live on and the changing seasons.
As I said before, if any of these words triggered you see if you can sit with those feelings for a few minutes to see what those emotions have to say. Is there truth in these statements that resonates for you even if it makes you angry?
As a Registered Acupuncturist, my aim is not just help you feel better, but to help make those changes last. I help to get to the root of the issues. Because the body and mind are so interlinked I can’t treat the root cause and symptoms of the body and mind separately. I am in no way saying that I am a psychotherapist. That is not within my scope of practice. But my scope of practice as a Registered Acupuncturist does include balancing the emotions.
As human beings our bodies and emotions are like an ongoing Verizon commercial from the 90’s constantly asking,“Can you hear me now?” with various signal wavelengths and intensities.
Are you listening?