My life, at least so far, has been lived in three distinct phases. One certainly led to the next, and each phase has revealed more and more to me, often painfully.
Phase One was Childhood. In 1991 my family emigrates to the US, we finish our education here and begin our own careers. It was a good life and I pretty much accepted it as it was, without question. Without great curiosity.
Phase Two was Transition. And it started this way:
You’ll be lucky just to walk straight, says a junior substitute physical therapist, after being asked when can I resume my favorite outdoor activities.
Two months had passed since a serious car accident, two surgeries, and three weeks at Columbia Presbyterian Orthopedic Unit.
‘Thanks but no thanks’ – I thought to myself. His words had seemed more of a verdict than a diagnosis.
‘What do you want to do?’
From nowhere came that question later in the week while I was sitting in my wheelchair feeling sorry for myself. Ooo-kay… Looks like the first thing I need to do is to get off Oxycodone as it’s clearly messing with my head.
‘What Do You Want To Do?’
There came the question again as if it was an old vinyl record, skipping. Alright, I’ll play along. What I really want to do is to go skiing… preferably somewhere in the Alps.
‘So?’, came the reply. ‘What’s stopping you?’
(Ok, definitely losing it) Well, whoever or whatever this is, clearly you are not seeing the full picture. It’s July, and…I’m in a darn wheelchair!?!
‘So?’ came the message, ‘Close your eyes and go skiing!’’
Hmm, that’s a pickle.. but then again what do I have to lose, apart from PTSD caused by my being cut out of my car after wrapping it around a fire hydrant, two surgeries, two months of recovery, and oftentimes unbearable pain?
After imagining the most breathtaking image in my head I went down a wide, curvy, and ungroomed black diamond without a care in the world.
Three weeks later, after daily ‘skiing’ behind my eyelids, all I needed was a cane.
‘Walk that hallway for me’ asks my (primary) physical therapist during a final evaluation. I comply. ‘Do that, again’ OK, I guess someone wasn’t paying attention… I went again.
‘I’ve been doing this for over 25 years yet never seen anyone recovering from triple fractures of the femoral head, iliac, and pelvic bones this way. What did you do?’
Let’s see… If I’m going to be honest and tell her about skiing in my head there is a high chance of being referred to the psychiatry department across the hall so let me play safe.
I was just a compliant patient, I replied. Following your instructions and a regimen plus swimming every day (which I did)…
‘Alright’, she said, clearly not convinced. ‘Best of luck.’
Fast forward to 2001, I pushed off the top of the UNESCO-listed Jungfrau mountain in the Swiss Alps looking at an image almost identical to the one that I saw sitting in my wheelchair.
Back in the office as a Cisco Network Engineer at Charles Schwab, in Pavonia-Newport, NJ nothing seemed as it was. All searches under mind-body medicine led to rather unknown to me concepts such as Acupuncture, Qi Gong, Meditation, Visualization, etc. After a visit to Barnes & Noble, a small yellow paperback Between Heaven and Earth, A Guide to Chinese Medicine called out to me. I couldn’t put it down.
In the early morning of September 11th, I was assigned to monitor the trading floor. Once the first plane hit the North Tower everyone was looking at the burning building right across the Hudson. A young assistant to a stock broker picked up her phone to call someone there. ‘Put the f…ing phone down, I need to make an f…ing trade’ yelled her trader across the floor. Everyone froze… ‘I’m done here, life can be too short’ – I thought to myself…
The last drop was a visit t
o an Open House of the Pacific College of Oriental Medicine in NYC. Shortly after that, my IT career was over.
And Phase Three is where I am now, and why I am. Phase Three is Amma.
I graduated from Pacific in 2006 with a Master’s Degree and hold Dipl. O.M. status from the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (NCCAOM) and have been in private practice ever since.
After practicing for a few years there was a sense that what I was doing wasn’t enough.
Patients were getting better but not at the rate that I would like them to.
The main focus of any medical model is to diagnose and treat what is shown. In the West, it’s called symptoms or syndromes. In the East – energy imbalances. The question I tried to answer is not what the patient is having but why they are having it in the first place.
Psychology suggests that In order to understand another, one needs to understand himself so I went soul searching.
A phone call on a Friday afternoon in November of 2011 was a pivotal point in that search. It was my former karate sensei. ‘We’re hosting Amma, a spiritual teacher, and a healer from India at the Dojo tonight. I don’t have that many people who are attending the talk. Would you be able to make it?’…
We were all sitting in the basement Dojo I knew well as anything but spiritual. When a person of Indian origin entered the floor everyone got up and formed a queue.
Apparently, it is customary for a person titled ‘Amma’ to hug the worshippers.
Once I got my hug Amma looked me straight in the eyes and said: ‘We’ve met before’. I said, Um, I’m pretty sure I’d remember if we met. She smiled and replied, ‘Walk a few miles with me’. That hug, that mind-boggling statement, was the start of my spiritual journey.
Today acupuncture is still one of the main modalities that I rely upon while working on a variety of ailments. Although, this practice has evolved into something more.. A version of the Hogwarts Express that takes on and gives a lift to all spiritual seekers just like myself. I find Traditional Chinese Medicine to be fascinating, still amazing myself observing how it heals and balances. But it is now infused with all the good that flows from the learning I enjoy each day from Amma.