August 27, 2014

The Butterfly Story

One evening, I met this really cool creature on Lombard St., I thought, what better way to celebrate than to get down like the creature I met, w/ a glorious depiction of it by Conrad Booker (2014 Left, 2015 Right

Here is what happened, I'll try to tell you something that is really just strange to put into words, you know? Some happenings can't be described. That's what this was, indescribable.You had to be there.

Here goes. I was never a butterfly person. They are gorgeous and colorful, but I never felt a connection necessarily unique to any other living creature, like I see some people do.
My uncle John made a piece called, "Butterflies for Kathy," by John Murphy. My mom is the butterfly girl.

But, there was this one butterfly, on this one day.

It was early evening in Washington Square West, Philadelphia on 7th St. I'm walking home from work. I approached Lombard and something made me stop and look to the ground, to my right.

There was a perfect black butterfly with one large orange splotch on each wing sitting in the middle of the road. I heard a car approaching so I gazed with a warning to the butterfly. The butterfly remained still for a few moments and then began to fly.

The butterfly flew around me and I twirled to see it. I lost it after a glance, but felt it. It had landed on my right shoulder and was looking directly into my eyes for 15-30 second. My heart was pounding, blood rushing, breath quickening, my feet became sternly rooted into the ground.

The butterfly flew around me again, I spun around slowly looking for it, but I couldn't see it. I stopped-  it landed on my left shoulder. That butterfly looked right through me. I was frozen still as I felt my soul coming to the surface, without asking my permission. I was like, "oh shit!"
That is how present this little creature was he made me shutter.

My mind flickered into reality- I wanted to capture this moment- I thought about reaching for my camera and the butterfly flew around me again. I could only move my eyes. I remained still, but could not see the butterfly. (I instantly abandoned the idea of taking a picture during a moment like this again, what a waste of preciousness- staging is fine!)
I couldn't see it or where it went.

I stood still looking slowly around, wondering if I could breathe again, as people began to stare at me and wonder what I was doing. I didn't care.
I felt the butterfly again. It landed on my chest, directly on top of my heart this butterfly sat staring up at me, facing me, looking me in the eyes.
My mouth opened in disbelief. It was the same each time it landed on me so tender, but determined to communicate something to me.
I felt the little feet of that butterfly penetrating into me watching me for a good 15 seconds as my spirit sank and it felt like a lifetime.

Then it vanished. I shivered.
I couldn't see it fly away into the trees or around the corner.
The butterfly just vanished.
From that moment, I was changed with a new vision and a new voice.
Transformed. Still. Quiet. Touched. Withdrawn from my senses. Aware. Awake.

I am as free as that butterfly.

"Who was that?" said Derek
"That butterfly was for you" said Justine.
"Would you believe I saw that same butterfly today" said Donna.
 "I think that was my mother. She was speaking to me earlier." Beth said
"Maybe it was your dad" Andrea said.

Friday August 8, 2014
There was this little
that busted my
heart wide open and changed my life forever.


August 23, 2014

Home Practice #1 Shower Yoga

I yogini while I cook dinner, in the shower, while I work, talk on the phone, run to work, watch Shameless episodes, scrub up messes, while I'm having sex (this one is my favorite- a proven way to get your feet behind your head without even realizing it.)
If I think about a posture or even smell it, I immediately get into it.
Without hesitation, or any thought. Actions are everything. The more I do it the better I do it.

After a ton of graceful guidance from the local yoga schools and body workers in Philadelphia - I have taken my practice home with me.

Once I began practicing yoga every single day, I saw a lot of changes happening.
I realized what it would take for me to get the satisfaction out of this I was looking for.
I'm constantly visualizing myself getting closer and closer to that more drenching stretch- my toes touching my forehead, my spine elongating, my core strengthening, my splits spreading, my soul awakening, my focus unyielding.

It makes sense to practice at home as a prerequisite to committing to regular studio time.
It's a frustrating and personal process. Transforming is not always something you want to do in a group, until you've come out of your cocoon (maybe that's just me.)

It's like preparing and studying for a test. Know the lingo and how to get into the postures.
This is when the classes will be very helpful. Come with your homework done and then join a community. It was joining a yoga studio that made me realize this. A private lesson or two can also help you along.

The Ashtanga Primary Series is a starting point.
This sets up the foundation for all yoga postures going forward.
Primary Series is that. A series of positions to get your body warmed up to grow in this discipline.
Both studying the Light on Yoga text book by BKS Iyengar, with great focus and a highlighter, and the video instruction of Kino MacGregor spoke to me.

Until my personal practice has evolved to where I will  benefit from time at the shala in India, Kino's studio in Miami, David's Ashtanga school down the street, Rodney Yee's Manhattan digs and Dhyana's homey studio- I'll be gettin' down every day (except moon days), looking for video instruction, text books and doing warrior pose while I brush my teeth.

August 2014 Began Ashtanga training and studies. Mastering the Primary Series.

Below are a few good interviews. See related blog posts for instructional videos. 
*Kino says Guruji said these three things for many years will take us there:
Finding my focus (pratyahara) by looking (drishti) practicing my asana's (getting all twisty) and breathing (pranayama.)

This also made me see me in her- fun story about her humble beginnings,


August 20, 2014

All sorts of layers of flavors in this sauce-ay.

Roberta DeCarlo,
It's like a full course meal of flavors- kind of like Willy Wonka's "gob stoppers"...

The medical school is fixing my computer today, changing my IP, my passwords don't work. I was left with no choice, but to leave early after speaking with a couple handfuls of patients in the Oncology unit at Penn hospital. Beth, if you are reading this I promise I worked very hard today! Considering that I speak with people about how they want to die for most of the day, I usually look for a replenishing something to do after my day.

I'm a foodie, so I shop for food. So many things about Whole Foods make me feel happy. They deliver to my house, it smells delicious and healthy inside, such a wonderful combination. There are always so many smiling faces and aisles plush with people who genuinely care about their health and the world around them. It creates a vibe throughout the store. I heard they got bad press recently and so many are always discussing how overpriced they can be. Maybe they are charging a surplus for the joy and aroma oozing throughout. I personally only shop at WF for butter, for example, to get the best deal. The power of supply and demand is relevant here regarding price. I get the huffing and puffing about the cleanliness of the foods. People are dying from toxic food. Hence, the value and ingredients are a life and death matter for some shoppers.

Another perk to perusing the grocery aisles are the samples. I once entered to pick up lunch and left the store full without yet having spent a dime. Crab salads, burgers, veggie scewers and an adorablely bubbly chef that frequents the store serving up her plenty. She holds cooking classes for kids every Tuesday, at the store. Her and a former employee Joy cooked up the idea. I also met Maria Lee, who battled blindness and now frequents the red carpets with her secrets in Shea butter. A total boy next door, as demure as anything, Brandon, who battles baby brain cancers with his recipes and today I met a new hot sauce story.

Rocky's Hot Sauce a local culinary treat. Roberta DeCarlo was at a restaurant and asked for the ingredients to a sauce she was super impressed with. At first, she was not given the recipe, "It's top secret miss, I'm sorry."  Later to her surprise, the chef had an argument with the owner, as he was storming out of the place he whispered the recipe into Roberta's ear. Roberta later went home and played with those ingredients, today that experience yields Rocky's Hot Sauce.

I'm not a hot sauce person necessarily, but recently I was looking for it when a recipe I call, "Tarzan's Catfish" called for it. The bottle I chose did not have nearly the flavors and layers that this sauce has. I wouldn't normally be raving about a hot sauce when I use it maybe once a year, or twice. But at first bite, there are an array of flavors garlic, subtle seasonings of sweet, sour, spicey and bitter varieties and then moments later you get to feel a dangerous, but friendly bit of fire. It's a surprising twist it has character. I'd recommend it. Try it! I could doctor that review up, but take my word for it on this tiresome hump day blog post. It's freakin' yummy, interesting and makes you get all curious like,
"what is that, why is that so good, how did you make the hotness of the hot sauce delay its arrival?" I saw a lot of faces agree, asking for seconds at the sampler table takes courage and that was happening a lot. The dude with the shades could not resist, the little lady with her toddler squealing for chocolate in the background took time to take another bite. Something intoxicating about this sauce, I mean it. the humble Roberta aims to please.

"Tarzan's catfish recipe"
A pinch of hot sauce black pepper garlic Pepper Rica hehe melted butter in a bowl Mix alll together probably a full stick dip the catfish in the butter creation and throw it in a hot skillet coated with whatever you want olive oil sunflower cranola organic of course whatever yummy delicious

By SKG 8-20-14

August 4, 2014

Acupuncture Research lecture at UPENN

A strong presence and a plush accent dusted with the remains of her worldly travel are only a few of the stunning attributes that made Dr. Claudia Witt’s recent lecture stand above the fray. She came to the Perelman Center for Advanced Medicine to inform us that Acupuncture combined with Primary Care has brought about a “new era in Conventional Medicine.” The research is being done, getting funded and people are getting much better with the combination of the two worlds of care.

As a guest of our Integrative Medicine Pioneer, MD and Acupuncture physician here at Penn Jun Mao, Dr. Claudia Witt talked to us about Acupuncture Research around the world and how it’s infusing the practice of Acupuncture medicine at home and abroad.

Currently a resident of Switzerland where acupuncture is covered by insurance when practiced by a Medical doctor, Witt describes the large variety of regulations that swirl through Acupuncture practice. It all relies on one factor, how much has been proven and among how large of a sample size it has been proven with.

Simply put, we need more people recruited for the studies, more funding for more research studies to be conducted to continue to prove the multitude of benefits that people are experiencing with this penetrating practice of Acupuncture medicine.

Witt says regarding increasing the size of the population these studies are conducted on, “Often it is a cultural issue. During a clinic holding pediatric acupuncture research, to see a room filled with children with a lot of needles sticking out of their heads, for some cultures this would be strange, but not for others. It has been difficult to recruit for these studies. Large sample sizes in the US are needed to ramp up the research. It’s mostly small scale studies that have taken place thus far as opposed to the Meta analysis coming out of other countries.”

Most people I know have had a good experience with acupuncture. For them, that is the proof. It makes them feel better, that proves that it works. However this will not help to get Acupuncture practitioners paid as they deserve insurance companies to reimburse so patients can get more acupuncture, research studies funded, or other physicians to refer their patients for treatments. In China Acupuncture is free and you can get as much as you need.

Research on preventing disease, Immunology research, measuring Qi and functional imaging to prove pain (possibly through PET) were among the topics that were discussed among the viewers. According to Witt, prevention research may be taking place in China; however in the US this would be a costly endeavor considering the long term observation that would be required.

For tension headaches (HA) research shows that needling points do not matter. “No matter where you put the needle, the headaches get better” says Witt. Sham research, needling points and mechanisms such as turning the needle and making deeper skin penetration (always done in China- “I beg for the western style Acupuncture when I am in China because it is quite painful,”) as well as trigger point acupuncture (palpating points to find pain and find the points) are huge topics amongst researchers and Acupuncturists.

Placebo always has to be considered. According to Witt this is one of the largest areas of research going on right now, Placebo research. An individual’s expectation of a treatment to work and make them feel better, has seen to impact patients with chronic pain, who are receiving acupuncture treatments.

Patient- Doctor Interaction’s research in Zurich showed that it mattered more the type of relationship that was being developed between patient and doctor, than the treatments themselves. Studies on arthritis, tension headaches, migraines, pain, Bells-Palsy are among what we have currently published in JAMA, Lancet and Journal of Clinical Oncology. Stronger needle stimulation was seen to help for Bells-Palsy. Mao recently published research for those suffering from the side effects of breast cancer treatment. Breast cancer Surgical Oncologist, Dr. Brian Czerniecki is referring his patients to Mao for acupuncture since the recently published study came out. “He’s been sending his patients more and more for Acupuncture” Says NP of Czerniecki.

One topic I meant to bring up was the use of pulsation. Monitoring the pulse to determine diagnosis and treatment is practiced among one fully trained pulsation practitioner that I know of in Philadelphia, but also by other Acupuncturists on a smaller scale. According to Witt, “Diagnosing and individualized care is not showing much evidence to make a difference e.” The Acupuncturist at Five Virtues mixes her own herbal formulas and went through specialized Chinese medicine training to do so. “If we use fixed formulas, standard care for everyone we are no better than western medicine.” Five Virtues Acupuncturist sees a remarkable difference in her patients when treating with emphasis on diagnosis and individualized treatments. Fixed formulas and standardized care vs. individualized care have not yielded much research, as of yet. Another Acupuncturist working out of Society Hill says, “The standard formulas have shown to be very beneficial for my clients. I use them and pulse points to approach the types of treatments I deliver.”

Witt conducts both Clinical Research and experimental research while also practicing Acupuncture medicine in Switzerland, where Acupuncture is covered by insurance if the practitioner is also a Medical Doctor. We hope she will come back and keep talking to us. I will be assisting flood Jun Mao with patients for his two active research studies on breathing and pain, taking place at Penn’s Perelman Center.

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