Notes from a Portland Acupuncturist: Acupuncture for the Soul

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The beauty of acupuncture is that it is a holistic medicine: it treats Mind, Body, Soul/Spirit.


acupuncture for the SpiritThe Emotions of Fall

Fall is a time of introspection. As we are starting to feel the beginnings of autumn in Portland — the chill in the morning, a few days of gray and rain here and there, the increasing darkness, and the very first leaves changing — it is a natural time to take inventory. Summer is frenetic; the energy is Yang. It is hot, robust, busy, social. Your days are packed and you feel like you have to take advantage of every last minute for fun and exploration. So when fall begins, it can feel abrupt and disjointed.

This time of year my patients start to come in with similar issues: They feel stuck. They feel uncertain. They begin taking stock of their lives, their year, and they start to feel a little bit of panic. They are increasingly tired, yet they can’t sleep. They feel like the time is flying and that they are not sure if they are consciously living their lives, or if they just got stuck in a current and stayed there. They are staring to feel a little bit of tired sadness creep into their days.

This time of year can bring some unrest to your Spirit.


Just as my patients are starting to notice, you may start to feel the nagging feeling of time slipping away; a kind of grief can set in from the sense of time loss. It feels like school just got out for summer, and already we’re in September. You ask yourself “What did I do? Did I move any closer to my goals in the last 3 months? We are only 3 1/2 months from the start of 2016, did I accomplish any of what I wanted to accomplish this year?” We start to feel the tension of time.

So what to do about it? This article is titled “Acupuncture for the Soul” for a reason.

Acupuncture, known to be amazing at helping your tendonitis, headaches, and insomnia, is also an incredibly powerful tool for the Spirit.

The Spirit/Soul of Chinese Medicine

Spirit, Soul, Shen in Chinese medicine, is an important but often overlooked part of the medicine. Holistic medicine treats Mind, Body, and Spirit. Acupuncture (being holistic in nature) is not just physical medicine, but it has an entire energetic component. If you’ve received acupuncture before you’ve surely felt it. The relaxation, the clear-yet-spacey head feeling after your treatment, the positivity, and the ability to better manage your stress that comes when you get regular acupuncture treatments — this is all part of the Spirit medicine.

It can go way beyond relaxation, however. Some of my favorite treatments to give people are those that are entirely focused on Spirit healing. The patient who walks in and says, “I’m actually feeling pretty good physically, but mentally….” will often get a treatment that is almost centered on grounding, deepening their connection with their higher Self, and on quieting their whirling Mind. There are beautiful Soul-level uses for acupuncture points, that with the right combination and the right intention from your practitioner can be transformative. Here are a few points I use both physically and for more Soul driven treatments:

  • acupuncture to open your heartLung 2 Yun Men translates to Cloud Gate or Door of the Clouds. Physically we use this point for issues with the pectoral muscles, asthma, coughing, frozen shoulder. But for the Spirit level, this point is one often used to help people overcome grief. I would choose this point when someone feels like they are living under a “cloud” of misery or sadness. It is for the time when one wants to look up to the heavens (not religiously, but Spiritually), but the blue sky and sun are blocked by the grayness. This helps to clear away confusion, the feeling like they can’t move on and helps to show them that there is still light.
  • Triple Burner 10 Tian Jing translates to Celestial Well. Physically this point is used for issues with the elbow — tendonitis, arthritis. On the Soul or Spirit level we use this point for clarity to reinforce the connection between Spirit and conscious mind. It is a point for recharging, to bring stability and peace to an anxious or unstable mind. It is like a fresh well in the desert, bringing nourishment and energy so that healing can take place.
  • Liver 13 Zhang Men translates to Chapter Gate. Physically this point is used to improve digestion, for any kind of stuck feelings/indigestion in the upper abdomen. The Spirit aspect of this point is that it is powerful at helping someone connect with their hope and vision. I most commonly use this point when people are at a junction in their lives and they are ready to turn the chapter, but feel like there is one last little bit of stuck energy that is preventing them from doing so.


These are just a couple of examples of the hundreds of points that can be used to help someone transition emotionally with acupuncture. It is a lovely treatment option when combined with talk therapy as well. A counselor or therapist can help you work through your issues by verbalizing while the acupuncture can help you integrate and open yourself to the changes that need to happen. Acupuncture can also help you become much more acutely aware of triggers that are causing the unrest in your Spirit.


Introspection: What you Can Do to Nourish Your Mind, Body and Spirit this Fall

As mentioned above, fall brings with it a sense of introspection. We start to stay inside more, our social calendars often open up a bit. This is also the time that planning begins. This is the season to start internal work that will be showcased in the burgeoning landscape of the spring. Fall is associated with the Lungs in Chinese medicine, and it is also the season when colds and flus start to rear their heads. The Lungs are associated with the emotion Grief, and it is often through the shortening days that this sense of grief is prompted.

Here are a few things you can do at home to help yourself find Light as the days begin to darken, as well as to protect your immunity:

Wear a scarf.

Is there any piece of clothing you look more forward to bringing out of the closet than your scarf? It is THE signal that fall has begun, and not only is it functional for keeping you warm, but it has the added benefit of giving you a sense of security and comfort. In Chinese medicine we also worry about the cold wind of fall entering the body through the neck and upper back (this may sound crazy, but pay attention to how many people around you start getting sick when they are caught wearing the wrong clothes as the seasons transition). This plays out in the upper back and neck aches that you feel when you first start to get sick, and in the cloudy head and the chills that signal the beginning of a bad illness. Keep yourself appropriately warm to stay healthy this fall.

Eat seasonally.

It is difficult to have a healthy Spirit without a healthy body. Digestion is the key here, and as the days and nights grow colder, it is time to make your transition to eating warmer, heartier foods. Take advantage of the end of summer squashes, peppers and tomatoes this month to make Ratatouille or stocks and stews. They are easier to digest, and thus make your body work a little less to get all of the nutrients it needs. It is a good time to start including some fermented foods with each meal as well — sauerkraut, kimchi and kefir. Healthy body, healthy mind. Eating seasonally is a good first step, and the added benefit is that a more robust digestive system leads to a stronger immune system as well.


Now is the time to reconnect with your Lungs and with your internal Self through meditation. Summer may have been too busy, and you likely replenished your Soul through interactions with friends and nature — through the Yang activity of play. Now as you get deeper into the fall, you will naturally be feeling yourself move into introspection, and the best way to combat the overwhelm, anxiety and grief that can come up as you take stock of your life and your year is through meditation. This doesn’t need to be complex. Simply find a quiet spot to breathe for a few minutes. Focus on inhaling and exhaling through your nose, attempting to create a loop of breath, in and out in a seamless flow. You can do this anywhere, at any time. Aim for 5 minutes/day and increase from there. Visit my website to download my free ebook “5 Simple Ways to Improve Your Health Today” and find a beginners guide to meditation inside.


There are many ways to care for yourself as the seasons change. Instead of letting yourself get depressed or overwhelmed by the end of summer/beginning of fall, take the opportunity to increase your self care. Schedule some acupuncture — it will help you clear out the cobwebs, to feel energized and motivated, and it will quiet your brain so you head towards the end of the year in a focused and intentional way.