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Was it you who know me (Jason) well know that, for the last couple of decades, my main teacher and mentor Liu Ming has given a widely popular talk at the beginning of each Chinese new year. When I first got to know Ming, he would give these talks in his apartment in Oakland or Seattle, and as he became more and more well-known over the years, his audience screw. For the last few years, his New Year’s talks were given 2000 people at a time at the Marin Civic Center. I have always loved the way that he would approach each year, not just the year as a whole, but how it would relate to each person individual astrology. Many of you know that I would repeat a lot of his information at the beginning of each year, giving clues to patients specific to their own situations.

Unfortunately, Ming died quite suddenly in the spring of this past year, and no one can really take his place when it comes to Chinese astrology, feng shui, or anything else that he taught. And while I studied with him for many years, any attempt on my part to fill in the gaps left by his absence would be woefully inadequate. That said, I do anticipate a lot of requests for information on the upcoming monkey year, which begins on February 8, 2016. I’m not a huge fan of the placemat astrology that most of us get online and at Chinese restaurants, and Ming was never too excited about making predictions about the coming year. He would often say that he was an astrologer, not a fortune teller.

year-monkeyGiven how popular his information was, and the demand for better information, I may begin pasting info that I get from other sources starting this year. Thus far, I have not found a whole lot of great information on the monkey year. However, one relatively generic description the the auspices of the year of the monkey I found to be worth posting here in case anyone is interested. So find below a very lengthy description from Lillian Bridges, a well-respected practitioner in American circles of Chinese medicine practitioners.


February 8, 2016 ushers in the Year of the Red Monkey. Monkeys are considered the tricksters of the Chinese Twelve Animal Signs and this means it is likely to be an exciting and “interesting” year. But remember that the fortune cookie proverb, “May you Live in Interesting Times” is actually considered a curse!

The elements of this year are Yang Fire over Metal, which means there is automatically a clash as Fire melts and weakens Metal. This Yang Fire is not that dangerous because the Monkey is such a strong Metal Element. However, when there is a clash of this kind, there will be opposing energies and you can expect governments and people taking different sides. So there is a high probability that there will be a war of mostly words between people, politicians running for office and internationally between countries. There will be more threats than action. Political fights, especially infighting is expected, as the Fire Element is involved with words and speaking. Certain world leaders will be acting even more provocatively than usual and their posturing and saber rattling will be more amusing than dangerous. People, especially already famous ones, need to be careful about acting and looking ridiculous this year, as notoriety will definitely bring a kind of exaggerated fame that is troubling to their reputation long-term.

It is also expected that there will be sudden instability in many formerly solid governments and leaders that previously looked impervious to criticism will be challenged as the Monkey makes the stable suddenly unstable for short periods of time. Therefore, international conflicts are likely, but the good news is that disputes can be settled rather easily and most conflicts will be short-lived.

The balance of these two elements – Fire over Metal – also means that it is likely to be an expensive year, as money is Metal and Fire melts it. People will spend exponentially more than usual, especially for travel, trendy items such as clothing and whatever becomes an “it” product phenomenon. Stock Markets are likely to fluctuate rapidly, but economic growth is expected overall globally by the end of the year.

Metal is solid until it becomes liquid and that means things change quickly this year and anything can happen. Adaptability and versatility are traits that will be of great value in this Monkey Year. Expect the unexpected and don’t become complacent. There will be more trickery, deception and opportunism than usual. Watch out for con artists and hucksters, as it is easier to be persuaded, fooled or taken advantage of this year.

There will be enhanced communication and motivation – especially if it involves fun. People will become wittier and being serious will not be as beneficial as usual. Comedians will become more popular and stand up comedy will be revitalized. People will be funnier by accident and humor will be more appreciated. Many clever inventions, especially those that are new and different are likely to catch on and unplanned success is quite possible. There is great luck in this year, but it is quite random and currencies will fluctuate. Creativity and imagination will be admired and rewarded. This is a good year for taking small risks and for non-conformity, especially in thinking and dress. Ultimately, progress will be made although it won’t be evident until later in the year exactly how far things have actually progressed.

Yang Fire is symbolized by the Sun and it will burn bright and hot this year in many places. Weather will change rapidly. As the Monkey loves change, places that are usually wet will be dry and places that are usually dry will be wet. This has already started showing with the massive El Nino phenomenon currently reaching it’s peak at the start of this new year and will change, reversing into a La Nina later this year. Weather will be very hard to predict and rainfall, drought and heat waves will be scattered, even within one country or region. The Metal Element is also Air, which condenses to make rain or melts to make water, so there will be lots of rain in areas completely unused to so much rain or snow and ice will melt unexpectedly, which will cause flash flooding. Some areas will become excessively hot and the infrastructure of the electric utility grids in these areas will become severely challenged. With fires and heated air, it will be a hard year for birds and other airborne creatures like bats and insects. With heated oceans and lakes in some areas, it will also be difficult for many sea creatures.

Natural disasters will happen very suddenly and without much warning. Expect more dramatic storms, more lightning and lightning sparked fires and fires in many places that spread easily and are hard to contain. The good news is that the Earth Element will be fed, so there will not be as many earthquakes. However, volcanic eruptions and melting snow are both likely. There will be more Northern Lights as we are at the peak of Solar Flares, so expect disruptions in the electrical grid system from this as well in many places for short periods of time. These Auroras are expected to be seen further south than usual as well, and sunsets will be especially vivid and beautiful as Metal is the direction of the West and the setting sun.

In business, the High Tech industry will likely suffer some setbacks, as it is considered part of the futuristic Metal Element that may come under attack. Expect Tech companies to face consumer backlash, and new products will be popular for a shorter period of time than expected. New products of all kinds will be discarded easily. Unexpected and quirky products will become a temporary craze and must-have items. People will buy impulsively and they will be particularly interested in new scientific inventions and creative solutions. Crafts and craftsmanship will be more appreciated.

This is a great year for Marketing and Advertising. Humorous and/or heartwarming ads/commercials will be valued. Sales will increase, as people will be in a buying mood so the retail sector is expected to do well.  Personal spending is expected to increase exponentially so this is a hard year to save money and banks may be affected. Start-ups will get more traction than usual and Entrepreneurs will be celebrated. There will be more hiring and it will be much easier to get temporary jobs and contract jobs.

Since Fire Monkeys love to learn, this is a particularly good year for education as well as for the arts and culture. There will be a push to make learning more fun and campaigns to make art, crafts, physical education, music and fun electives a bigger part of the curriculum in schools. Students will have livelier minds and curiosity should be rewarded.

The Entertainment Industry gets a big boost. People will want to see more movies and television, and comedies, including romantic comedies and parodies will be popular. Audiences will appreciate having a good time. And, people will listen to more music, especially music with a strong beat, and dancing of all kinds will become more popular, as this is strong part of the Fire Energy of the year.

The Fashion industry will also have a great year, as people will want very colorful, trendy and playful clothing. Resort wear – sundresses, shorts, t-shirts, swimwear, lingerie, pajamas and even sunglasses will be big sellers. This is a year for colorful patterns and mixing and matching styles. Furs, sequins, embroidery, playful glamour and glitz, and any kind of quirky fashion will be hot, but trends will be short-lived and replaced by another one swiftly.

This is a great year for restaurants, as eating out is part of the Fire Element. Appetizers, Tapas, Dim Sum and Small Plates, along with unusual, exotic and even relatively unknown cuisines will have their day in the sun. Finger foods and snacks, especially hot and spicy foods will also become more popular. People will drink more alcohol and particularly enjoy cocktails and mixed drinks along with sparkling beverages of all kinds – especially Champagne, Wine and Coffee, which are quintessential Fire drinks.

People will want to travel more, especially to fun destinations and will take more short trips and quick road trips. They will want to have fun as the main objective. So it is also a good year for the Gaming Industry, which includes video games as well as gambling and betting. People will also want to have more parties so Party Planners and Party Stores will also do well.

However, this is not a good year for the airline industry and there will likely be more accidents and mechanical problems. All machinery involving metal and electricity, engines and batteries will have problems. There will be a chance of more fires and explosions. Office buildings (particularly Skyscrapers) and Power Plants are also not considered as safe this year and need to be protected. There will be more fires in houses and explosions too, so make sure you have a fire extinguisher handy and put fresh batteries in your smoke alarms.

The strong Fire Energy will feed the Earth Element so there will be an increase in crop production and the food industry should see a boom, especially with the sales of new products and exotic foods. It is also a good year for real estate. Expect quick sales of homes – fire sales as well as a return to flipping houses. There will be an increase in the rental market as the Fire Element is about temporary housing and moving around. Relocation experts and Real Estate Agents should do well.

Healthwise, there will be problems with the Metal Organs; particularly the Lungs and Respiratory System, the Large Intestines and the Skin. It is wise to watch your diet and eat carefully if and when digestive problems occur. Dehydration, Constipation and IBS will be particularly problematic as the Fire Element is so drying. Respiratory illnesses are expected to be widespread this year so it looks to be a particularly bad cold and flu season. These can more easily turn into inflammatory conditions like pink eye, ear infections, bronchitis, sinus infections and pneumonia. There may also be a resurgence of Tuberculosis. More throat infections and an increase in coughing are also expected with more laryngitis.

Allergies and Asthma will flare up and worsen in those that are susceptible and there will be many more people suffering from skin rashes and inflammatory skin problems such as hives, eczema, shingles, cold sores and skin infections from simple cuts. It is easy to get cut this year so be careful. You can also expect more burns and more accidents.

As the Fire Energy is so strong, there is a chance for in increase in Angina and Heart Disease in those with already weak hearts. There is likely to be an increase in the number of Heart Attacks, although many will be minor. There will probably be more people diagnosed with diseases involving the blood and circulation, such as excessive bleeding or high red blood cell count. It may also manifest as infections involving the blood, such as sepsis and inflammation of the veins and arteries.

Because the Fire Element depletes the Water Element, the Kidneys and Bladders of many people may be impacted. Inflammatory conditions like Cystitis and Kidney Infections are also expected to be prevalent and unfortunately it is an easier year to be impacted by Kidney Stones. Because of high temperatures, many people will be affected by Heat Exhaustion and Heat Stroke and Burns are also very likely to be a serious health condition suffered by many and many illness that involves fevers will be problematic. It is extremely important to stay well hydrated this year.

The Brain is also going to be impacted and there is likely to be an increase in the number of people diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and Dementia, but there is also a very strong chance that big breakthroughs in treatment will be found. The nervous system will be impacted by the amount of Fire in this year, so expect that there will be an increase in nerve pain and conditions such Shingles and other Herpes Virus outbreaks, as well as an increase in Mania and Neurological glitches.

The most pervasive problem with the intensity of the Fire energy is the expected increase in insomnia, hyperactivity, hysteria and mania. This is a year where rest must be consciously added to everyone’s schedule or this could become a precarious year for health, as the nervous system will be tested. Food as the Earth Element will help ground the body, so diet will become another way to enhance health and food should be treated as medicine.

The good news is that many people will have a stronger spirit due to the increase in the Fire Energy. They will feel more youthful, lively and energetic. There will be waves of optimism and joy, often for no apparent reason. People will want to talk more and will feel more playful. People will also laugh more and feel amused easily. There will be the urge to play more practical jokes, give more parties and people will just feel more mischievous and social.

But people will also feel more scattered and disorganized, which will lead to more anxiety and frustration. People will have quick tempers, sometimes even explosive anger and there may be more yelling or crying, but it will not last very long for most people. There will be less violence, but more sadness, but it is also much easier to laugh this year. People will feel impetuous and have sudden likes and dislikes that change. It will also be easier to disregard personal values, so it is advised that people think before giving into impulses since it is a year of impulsivity.

Overall, people will feel more emotional and have an easier time expressing their emotions and acting on their emotions this year, but they will be transitory. People will open their hearts and become more intuitive. There will be more enthusiasm and more impulsiveness. People will feel more sensitivity for the plight of others and will open their hearts and wallets for them, but in a smaller way than in a Wood year.

This is a good year for love and romance, but the playful kind of affection will be most evident and there will be lots of teasing and repartee. People will become infatuated easily and they will be more charming and flirt more, but there is also a chance for more dalliances, extramarital affairs, flings and short-term relationships. There will be provocative behavior from people you would not expect to act that way. People will be surprising in many ways!

Spirituality and religious fervor will increase with the Fire Energy. There will also be an increased interest in magic and miracles. People will feel more open-minded and more tolerant of differences. There will be an increase in friendliness and there will be urges to get together and just chat.

Creativity is enhanced and people will want to bring it out. This is a good year for experimenting with your personal style and it is advised that you try something new: a new hairstyle, a new wardrobe or learn a new language, take up painting or some other creative endeavor. Eccentricity will not just be tolerated; it will be greatly appreciated in a Monkey year.

Metal is forged and strengthened from Fire and Metal people will be tested. There will be many irritations and triggers. Endurance is called for and a good sense of humor to see the Cosmic Joke in the trials. When this year and the next one are over, Metal people will emerge polished, much stronger and ready to face life with much more personal power.

Honesty will be expected and desired this year, as truth makes the heart happy and the Fire Element rules the heart. And yet this is also a year where scruples will be lacking in many. Watch out for arrogance, as it will not be appreciated. Quick thinking and cleverness will be rewarded and the ability to solve problems will be enhanced by the energy of the year. But this is not a good year for making long term plans.

The Monkey year will help many people feel happier than they have felt in a long time and they will be able to have more fun. Although temporary, these feelings will arise often throughout the year. This year will feel like it is going by quickly, so get ready for the new pace. A sense of humor will be essential and flexibility, as well as versatility are great assets to possess in navigating this chaotic, changeable and ultimately quite fun Monkey year!


Individual Animal Forecasts for the Year of the Monkey 2016

Rat – Water Element: 1924, 1936, 1948, 1960, 1972, 1984, 1996, 2008 and 2020

Excellent year – ambitions rewarded and accomplishment is possible on many levels. Rats will feel confident and healthier. Promotion is likely, finances improve, social life is happy and romance is satisfying.

Ox – Earth Element: 1925, 1937, 1949, 1961, 1973, 1985, 1997, 2009 and 2021

Oxes should lay low and activity should be slow and steady, which is opposite the energy of this year. Oxes should stay home more and enjoy the quiet life. They will find life improves overall by the end of the year.

Tiger – Wood Element: 1926, 1938, 1950, 1962, 1974, 1986, 1998, and 2010, 2022

This is a difficult year for Tigers personally, but good professionally. Business and finance improve with travel, but obstacles create delays. Family life is tense and romance is complicated. Be careful with health – avoid accidents of all kinds.

Rabbit – Wood Element: 1927, 1939, 1951, 1963, 1975, 1987, 1999, 2011 and 2023

There are many irritations this year in business with numerous delays and redirections. Rabbits will feel overwhelmed easily and need to stay calm – going on vacation is important. The good news is that romance flourishes this year.

Dragon – Earth Element: 1928, 1940, 1952, 1964, 1976, 1988, 2000, 2012 and 2024

This is a great year for Dragons. Risks are rewarded and growth in business and reputation is likely. However, they must watch their spending, as it is likely to be an expensive year due to the desire to live the high life. Romance is good.

Snake – Fire Element: 1929, 1941, 1953, 1965, 1977, 1989, 2001, 2013 and 2025

Snakes should travel less this year and business is hectic. However, this is a very good year for personal relationship and romance. Health improves dramatically and as the secret friend of the Monkey, there will be more luck.

Horse – Fire Element: 1930, 1942, 1954, 1966, 1978, 1990, 2002, 2014 and 2026

This year can be challenging for Horses but overall they will feel healthier and more enthusiastic. Creativity is enhanced and self-esteem increases. A move or a job change is likely and will make Horses much happier. Drive carefully.

Sheep/Goat – Earth Element: 1919, 1931, 1943, 1955, 1967, 1979, 1991, 2003, and 2015

This is a year of miscommunication so be careful of misunderstandings. It is important to write things down. Relationships are a bit tense and health is variable. Sheep do best with time alone to be creative and they may travel more.

Monkey – Metal Element: 1920, 1932, 1944, 1956, 1968, 1980, 1992, 2004 and 2016

This is a year of success in business. Monkeys will be social, but prone to overstimulation and exhaustion. They are happier, funnier and more confident and have more charm, but need to be tactful and find balance for their health.

Rooster –Metal Element: 1921, 1933, 1945, 1957, 1969, 1981,1993, 2005, and 2017

This is a good year for Roosters professionally and business improves. But this is an even better year for love and romance. Roosters will be very happy. However, there may be problems with multiple repairs needed at home and/or with cars.

Dog – Earth Element: 1922, 1934, 1946, 1958, 1970, 1982, 1994, 2006, and 2018

This is a good year for financial stability. Dogs will be very social this year and will feel scattered. They will be busy at work or travel more so family members may feel neglected – compromise is essential. Be careful to avoid accidents.

Pig – Water Element: 1923, 1935, 1947, 1959, 1971, 1983, 1995, 2007, and 2019

This is a very creative and cultural year for Pigs. Business may slow down and it will be harder to collect money. However, romance is well aspected and it is easy to find a new partner or rekindle smoldering embers in a long-term relationship.

*Monkeys and Tigers should carry a Snake charm for protection and benefit this year, as the Snake is Monkey’s secret friend.


DISCLAIMER:  All information provided in this forecast is based on the ancient principles of the Chinese Five Element Theory and on an understanding of the animal symbolism in Chinese Astrology.  It is intended for entertainment purposes only.  There is no express or implied guarantee of results from using this information, and individual users are solely responsible for their own interpretation or application to their own circumstances.  Further, the information is not, nor is it intended to be, a substitute for legal, medical, or psychological advice, evaluation and/or treatment. 

©Lillian Pearl Bridges, Lotus Institute 2016


natheroesWe here at Lamorinda Healing Arts are getting interested in learning more about the Natural Movement…movement.  This site is our starting point for now, along with this book by the author of Born to Run. Check out the video above for an example, and let us know if you know more about Natural Movement by emailing us.

More about the book: “After running an ultramarathon through the Copper Canyons of Mexico, Christopher McDougall finds his next great adventure on the razor-sharp mountains of Crete, where a band of Resistance fighters in World War II plotted the daring abduction of a German general from the heart of the Nazi occupation. How did a penniless artist, a young shepherd, and a playboy poet believe they could carry out such a remarkable feat of strength and endurance, smuggling the general past thousands of Nazi pursuers, with little more than their own wits and courage to guide them?

“McDougall makes his way to the island to find the answer and retrace their steps, experiencing firsthand the extreme physical challenges the Resistance fighters and their local allies faced. On Crete, the birthplace of the classical Greek heroism that spawned the likes of Herakles and Odysseus, McDougall discovers the tools of the hero—natural movement, extraordinary endurance, and efficient nutrition. All of these skills, McDougall learns, are still practiced in far-flung pockets throughout the world today.

“More than a mystery of remarkable people and cunning schemes, Natural Born Heroes is a fascinating investigation into the lost art of the hero, taking us from the streets of London at midnight to the beaches of Brazil at dawn, from the mountains of Colorado to McDougall’s own backyard in Pennsylvania, all places where modern-day athletes are honing ancient skills so they’re ready for anything.

“Just asBorn to Run inspired readers to get off the treadmill, out of their shoes, and into the natural world, Natural Born Heroes will inspire them to leave the gym and take their fitness routine to nature—to climb, swim, skip, throw, and jump their way to their own heroic feats.”


As many of you know, I have studied for a couple of decades with Liu Ming, a teacher who inspires much of the philosophy I espouse here at the clinic.  Ming has gotten high-tech and now has a Facebook page, blog, and YouTube channel.  I recently found some audio of him speaking about the practice of medicine as self-cultivation and though it would be a propos to share it here.  Enjoy.



MingNYTalkAs many of you know, I practice a somewhat unusual form of Chinese medicine, informed by my Daoist teacher Liu Ming with whom I’ve studied for much of the last 15 years. Every year, Ming gives a great talk on the auspices of the upcoming Chinese year. While you may find many “placemat astrology,” three-sentence summaries in your local Chinese restaurant and online, Ming’s interpretation is not so much fortune-telling as detailing the true historical and astrological significance of the year. Rather than asserting that people born in another sign (say, Ox) are going to have a “bad” year, while people born in another will have more advantages, he prefers the metaphor of a meal, where a given set of food is served, and since each of us have different food preferences and tastes, we’ll each have a different gustatory experience. Same goes for the qi profile of the year. The year presents with a certain kind of energy that is neither good nor bad, it all depends on our individual tastes and preferences relative to our experience of that energy.

goatThis year, which begins on February 19, is the Year of the Goat. Each year is also informed by one of five elements, and the element this year is Wood, a metaphor for youth and Spring among other things. So the flavor or “qi profile” of the upcoming year is the image of a baby or youthful goat.

Given the youthful, playful energy, one might say that it’s a relatively immature energy, not fully formed, but open to education (thus a good year for getting unhooked from stagnant situations, hitting the reset button, starting fresh, getting educated in something new, being an amateur and being ok with not being an expert). Think “fresh start” in all areas. Goats also thrive in family life, and create “family” in many ways, thus making the energy of this year a good one for deepening social connections with your literal, social, political, and religious “families.” Goats and their accompanying energy are also quite adaptable.

Success is generally found in groups, recruiting the help of others and working diligently together toward success. Sustainable, innovative, local businesses appeal to a Wood Goat year. The last time we had a Wood Goat year was 1955, so you may wish to check on the happenings of that time to get a sense of the qi of the year.

Given that we each have a year (animal) we were born into, an element (wood, fire, earth, metal, or water), and a yin or yang proclivity (as well as a specific time, month, and day), the interpretation of the year specific to your own astrology is a more complex calculation. This is precisely why placemat astrology is a joke (and why I won’t go into massive detail in this email). If you wish to learn more about the Wood Goat year and its auspices for your particular sign, the audio for Liu Ming’s talk will be available through his site at http://www.dayuancircle.org by the end of the month.


Okay, Sugar. It’s over.

Now that wasn’t so hard, was it? All this time, I’ve been wondering how I’d say it, when I’d say it, when I would finally get the nerve to throw in the towel. And now that I’ve done it, that’s it? Was it always that simple? All I had to do was say, “It’s over?” Weird. Now as I sit here, strange silence all around me, I’m wondering what happens next. Aren’t you gonna say anything? I feel the same as I did a moment ago, before I said it. Nothing feels any different. Nothing looks any different. Birds are still singing. Trees are still green. The sky hasn’t fallen. But why are you being so quiet? Did you expect this all along? Did you know this was going to happen? Were you just torturing me, getting your beautiful, deadly claws deeper and deeper into me in search of my breaking point? Well, you’ve found it. And it didn’t happen when I said It’s Over. It’s been happening little by little, day after day, and into the night. It’s been happening every time I taste your bitter after-effects on the back of my tongue; every time I look in the mirror or look down upon my form in the dim, misty morning light of the shower. This decision has been waiting there as the faintest background voice when we meet up at catered events and private dinners together. It’s the loudest voice in the morning when I wake; part of the roots of my self-deprecation. It’s my very fear of death, my aversion to it, and my hope that I don’t cause my own end.

It’s Over is the tiniest tendril, smallest, freshest, most fragile newborn sprig of redwood coming up from the earth. In the past I’ve allowed you to step all over it, uproot it in all of your creative ways, but not this time. I’m building a fence around my will. It really is over this time. It has to be, because I simply, literally, cannot go on living like this.

Now that I’ve said it, now that I’ve made official our break-up, as I stop and take in the silence, the world does indeed look different. I can really hear the birds outside; I can really see each leaf on every tree. I can feel my guts, churning over the final remains of our last encounter. And though my eyelids droop and my vision is blurry after another almost-sleepless night, having finally said it, finally put it out there, I can feel what little pre-you soul I have left slowly waking to the possibilities. The hope. Hope that it might live again, and see the light created by the heat of my will to resist you.

No, this won’t be easy. I’ve broken up with you before, and I’ve been too weak to last, to stay away from you at your finest, most beautiful and hypnotically persuasive moments. Like an alcoholic, once an alcoholic, always an alcoholic: after years of sobriety, just one small drink places the physiological bookmark right back where it was before the break-up decision was made. So I understand your snickering, the ease with which you turn away when I tell you I can take no more. I was hoping you’d want to discuss it, like two adults with such a long history. We could make it amicable. But I can tell that you’re going to go back to the same old tired strategy you’ve used in the past. Ignore me, yet torture me by flaunting your relationship with others. Hey, it’s understandable. It’s worked every time before. All you have to do is wait it out. This is a phase, right? I’m addicted to you. Life isn’t the same without you. People are used to seeing us together. They wouldn’t know me without you. In fact, I’m sure that almost all of our friends will take your side and stick with you, even if they know and respect my side of the story. Over time, that may be one of the hardest things for me to come to terms with. But over time, as I begin to meet new people and find new ways to be without you, I’m confident that the same energy of resistance, that feeling of being alone, will turn into my source of power, what differentiates me and makes me special. I know it will, because sometimes, late at night or early in the morning, when the early bird is up, I can feel that strength and the pride it could engender. I put myself into a space of what it would feel like to have resisted you, to have weathered some without-you storm, and I relish the imagined strength and wisdom I have earned on the other side of the seas that toss inside of me.

Making a huge decision is always exciting just out the gate. I’ll feel a new kind of purpose, a self-made wind at my back from the sudden burning all of the fuel that was collected before launch. But after that fuel has burned off and the bonfire has become hot coals, I will need to continually find my own momentum to keep my will intact; continually recoat my gut with the teflon of the memories that brought me to this point. I know it won’t be easy. I’ll be so, so hungry for you. I can feel that I already am. You’re such an easy out. How will I deal with the massive hunger I have for you in so many ways? What will I do with all the space left where you once were inside of me? I’ll have so much time once I’m no longer anesthetizing my life with you. I need to know this, need to see it here, need to write it out and know that, to a large degree, the experience of being without you will be a very lonely experience. You’ve been what I’ve looked forward to, the feeling tugging inside of me between thoughts. You’ve created many of my most zen-like states. The temporary samadhi found indulging in your sweetness makes me only want more more more. At the very thought of being without you, every cell in my body screams out, “Why?”

I know that nearly every item on every shelf will remind me of you. Every restaurant was our hangout. So many supermarkets, minimarts, corner stores, bakeries, ice cream and frozen yogurt shops, gas stations, holes-in-many-walls. So many benches and secret hideaways where I’d sneak away to be with you. I know I’ll see you everywhere. And so will everyone else. You make friends so effortlessly. Even people who are close to me and love me and respect this decision will undoubtedly forget and will have you over when they invite me to go out for a bite or come in for a dinner party. New friends won’t know about our tumultuous past, and will try to set me up on blind dates with you. You’ve so successfully flooded so much of my past and present that my future will undoubtedly see you following me around as well. You’re nearly impossible to avoid. And I’m sure there will be times when you get your claws back into me, sometimes with my permission and sometimes without. Just a tiny taste, I’ll say. Just a wee little bit so I don’t feel so awkward in your presence. But that’s all. See, I’m already deal-making?

So this has to be it. I have to put my foot down. It’s time. Whenever I’m tempted by you, I need to read this. Because right now, as with so many right nows in the past, I need to move on. I’m 40 years old, and all evidence shows that I won’t make it much longer if I continue to allow myself to be your whore, to do your bidding. Sweet as you are so much of the time, the truth is that you are not a friend or even an alli. You’re a despot, an authoritarian parasite. You feed on people. And the way you do it is quite ingenious. You’ve become so necessary at such a basic level that all nourishment essentially breaks down into a unit of…you. Every meat, every cheese, every part of the food pyramid–my digestive system has been configured to take anything I consume and make it into…You. My every cell is a slave to you, crying out to imbibe your essence, running on your fuel, and continuously wanting more more more. Every digestive organ has been designed to break different kinds of nutrients into smaller parts to convert back into a form that can be put onto an altar…to you. And thus, nearly every need I have, every thought, every motivation, every joy and sorrow, essentially depends upon and leads back to you.

Save one. My will to survive.

Yes, this is a very long, drawn-out way of saying that I feel like our relationship has lost its balance. Much as I feel like I cannot live without you; much as I know I’ve basically been designed to serve you, some part of me (which, in essence, is part of you), knows that I literally cannot go on living like this. Though I’ve been designed to run on fuel made of you, the quality of the fuel I’ve been craving has been deteriorating over time. I no longer look for different kinds of experiences, different kinds of nourishment. Rather than searching out, creating, and enjoying many different forms of experience, I’m finding myself craving, seeking out, and absorbing the simplest forms of you. No more beautiful meals. Now it’s simply cake, ice cream, cookies, candy. I’ve cut to the chase, and the organs that were created and employed to eat a meal have been relegated to the bench. “Use it or lose it,” my mom’s favorite motto. And easy and fun as the simple road, the known, the predictable may be, we humans are designed to experience life. We are made for resilience. Not experiencing new things, new relationships, not utilizing our full potential, we wither and die.

Somewhere between my basic needs as a human animal and my will to live a long, productive life lies a balance. That balance is a sense of its own, holding within it my other senses. It’s even bigger than you. I call that balance my sentient soul, for lack of a better term. And this little life-saving note I’m writing is actually being ghost-written by that soul. My sense of balance. A balance that is beyond even you. My need for balance subsumes and holds my very structure, the structure that you prey on. And it wants you to return to your rightful place as its employee. Your coup has run its course, and it’s time for stability once again.

So even though I know how easy and delicious and fun and enjoyable it is to be with you; even though I’ve been satisfied to simplify and narrow my life to serve you and only you in nearly every way; the time has come to make a change. Even though my every cell has been built and formed in a unique way to serve you, something larger, something higher (call it a higher purpose) has emerged. It’s time I take the road less traveled. It’s time I try preparing meals rather than grabbing ice cream. It’s time I make my organs go back to work, exploring their every potential. Not because I don’t like you, but precisely because I do. So much so, in fact, that my relationship with you has literally become all-consuming. Sugar, it’s high time we break up. While you may live with or without me, my very life depends upon this decision. And I honor my better judgment, my survival instinct, by listening to it now, before it’s too late and I lose my self completely.


Many people who experience relief from acupuncture or other modalities wonder if it was the treatment, or the placebo effect.  My typical response is that I don’t care, so long as they feel better.

Much has been written about the Placebo Effect, and the article by Todd Hargrove which I’m attaching here has what I feel is a great explanation of it. Some text from the conclusion is below, and the full article may be read here.

The science of placebo is very interesting and informative. It is not unreasonable to suppose that a good degree of the success seen in movement-based therapies is through placebo-like effects, or through getting rid of nocebos. But I think the word placebo can be confusing. It refers to a wide variety of different phenomena that have different effects through different mechanisms.

Some placebo effects work through anxiety reduction, others through activation of the reward system, and others through descending inhibition of nociception. The common thread is they are all created by cognitive inputs – information that changes what the patient expects or believes about their health.

And this relates to another problem with the word placebo – it suggests that treatments which work through changes in client expectation are somehow inert, or ineffective, or not meaningful, or unethical, or even a scam. Of course this may very well be the case when the treatment is a sugar pill, or based on pseudoscience or quackery. In these instances, the clients’ expectations and beliefs are changed because they are deceived, and this is in most cases unethical.

But what if a treatment works primarily through changes in belief and expectation,but in a way that changes those beliefs to be more accurate? Consider the following scenarios, all of which might be described as involving placebo effects, but none of which involve deception:

  • a client is given accurate information about the poor correlation between back pain and objective MRI findings. This lowers his anxiety and pain.
  • a client is shown through passive and active movement that it is possible for her to bend forward without pain if she does so in a different manner. This reduces her anxiety, makes her expect benefit from therapy, and this reduces her pain.
  • a client receives compassionate and empathetic treatment from a caring therapist. This lowers his anxiety, makes him expect benefit, and thereby reduces his pain.
  • a client has had many past experiences with massage causing pain relief, and this learned association contributes to further pain relief from massage.

Are these all placebo effects? It is true that they all work in large part by changing the client’s beliefs. But that was the whole point of the treatment in the first place! So there should be no suggestion that the treatments are inert, ineffective or deceptive. Using the word placebo in these cases can be stigmatizing and confusing.

I prefer to look at it this way: pain results from perception of threat, and it can be treated by providing the client as much good news as possible about the threat in question.

Does this present an ethical issue? Only when that good news is built from lies and not the truth. Fortunately, I think there are many optimistic truths that clients can learn from therapists through touch, movement, and conversation.


After many months of careful deliberation, I have decided that it’s time I put out a formal note announcing my rates and a few policies I will not only be implementing but actually enforcing beginning July 1.  The following policies will only be news for a small percentage of you, but it feels important that I put this in writing to be clear.


New patients / first visit:  $120

Established patients / after first visit:  $90 per session

Again, for most of you, this is not news.  But for those of you who have not been in for some time, you may have had a lower rate in the past.

I have changed my rates twice in the past ten years:  Once, when I first started in the Lafayette office and was taking over the space from another practitioner who charged each patient a different fee, sometimes each time they came in; and again, almost four years ago, when my established patient fee went up 8%.  The only differences now are that (1) I now have a new patient/first visit fee, like all of my fellow practitioners; and (2) I will no longer be able to offer discounted treatments below my standard fee of $90 per treatment.

Kaiser No More

For the past 12 or so years I have been a credentialed Kaiser provider for members whose service area includes Oakland up to Richmond.  (Each service area has different policies and credentialing where acupuncture is concerned.)  In fact, I was one of the first acupuncturists in the Kaiser system.  I have had a great experience working with Kaiser and have especially enjoyed the patients Kaiser has sent my way.

Unfortunately, due to some antiquated Kaiser policies, it is no longer feasible for me to see patients referred by and paid by Kaiser insurance.  In fact, at this point, it almost costs me money each time I see a patient referred by Kaiser.  I have run my concerns up the Kaiser chain of command, and what it comes down to is that, with the exception of those who are currently in the middle of a course of treatment and/or are worker’s compensation cases, I will no longer be taking patients referred directly by Kaiser.

(As an aside, I happen to be a Kaiser member myself and have found many of their services quite exceptional.  They were also one of the first insurance companies, and the first HMO, to include acupuncture in their health plan, so I have no ill will here.)

Non-Kaiser Insurance

While I continue to take a limited number of worker’s compensation cases, I do not bill insurance companies.  I am happy to print out an invoice with all of the necessary coding such that you may send it in to the claims address on the back of your insurance card to be reimbursed by your health care plan directly.  Many of my patients have been doing this successfully for years.  I am also happy to print out summaries of your visits at any time, including year-end summaries for tax time.

Missed Appointments

Like most practitioners, hair dressers, massage therapists and the like, I will charge people who do not show up and/or give less than 24 hours’ notice for a cancelled appointment.  I have never been one to aggressively enforce this policy, but I’m turning over a new leaf, and will now be billing the full fee for a missed appointment.  I don’t love doing so, but, in light of my current waiting list, missing an appointment or cancelling at the last moment makes it difficult for me to get someone else to take that spot.

Reasoning Behind These Policies

As most of you know, my highest priority is to provide each of you with the best, most effective, most appropriate health care that I can.  That means focusing intensely on each issue and sharing every resource I know of to attend to your concerns.  (That may also mean telling you that acupuncture won’t work for a given condition, and checking out other allied practitioners or suggestions instead.)  I am proud of the work I do, and I want to continue doing my best and giving my all.

I have been extremely fortunate to have built a thriving practice from your referrals and Yelp reviews, and as a result, I am now busy beyond my wildest dreams.  So busy, in fact, that I am concerned about my quality of care dipping below a level with which I feel comfortable. It is my hope that, by formalizing and enforcing these simple policies, I will be able to keep my workload at a level that allows me to continue providing the care that has earned me your trust and confidence.


If you have any questions or concerns about anything I’ve written here, please feel free to contact me directly at 925.283.3860, or via email at jaluban@gmail.com.

Introducing:  Benjamin Dierauf, My New(ish) Officemate

Since the middle of 2013, I have added a new colleague to my office on Mondays, Fridays, and every other Saturday.  Benjamin Dierauf  has worked in Chinese medicine for over 20 years, including long stints as the head of our state acupuncture association.  He is well known by acupuncturists all over the country (he was even named “Acupuncturist of the Year” for the whole U.S. a few years ago), and has primarily worked in Berkeley and San Francisco as the head of student clinics in acupuncture schools and in private practice.  He is now building a practice here in Lafayette, and is my go-to guy when I am unavailable, or when I need treatment myself.  To learn more about Benjamin or to schedule an appointment with him, click here to go to his website Benjamindierauf.com; email him at bdierauf@gmail.com; or call him at 925.297.4785.

While I’m At It…  Other News

Some of you have wondered what I do on the days when I am out of the clinic.  I am a consummate multi-tasker, and have been working on a topical orthopedic salve based in traditional Chinese kung fu medicine.  After many years of trial and error, we believe we finally have a formula that will provide safe, effective pain relief to a wide variety of people with varied pain-related complaints.  We call it Kung Fu Goo, and it’s currently being used by the Oakland Raiders, as well as other sports teams and active individuals.  My dream is to take it out of my kitchen and make it available to a much wider audience.  The latest updates on “The Goop:”  We have a trademark, a patent pending, and students in the Michigan State University Packaging Department have taken on our packaging design as their senior capstone project.

Beyond that, I have also been teaching continuing medical education courses for doctors, chiropractors, physical therapists, nurses, acupuncturists, and others around the country on select weekends.  The subject matter is non-verbal medical communication.  I recently spoke at Northwestern Medical School as part of the International Conference on Communication in Healthcare, and will speak in a few months at the California Physical Therapy Association’s annual meeting.

Josie Update

Most of you have met Josie Carnita, the small black lab who keeps watch over the office while I’m there.  (Okay, she sleeps in the office, and is not much of a guard dog.)  For those who haven’t been by in a while, you should know that she is still alive and well, in spite of slowing down and going somewhat deaf of late. She is somewhere between 13 and 14 years young now, and though we had a cancer scare with her a few months back, she’s doing very well now and is always happy to see you.  Feel free to come by and pat her on the head any time (still free for a limited time).



Why would we put “relationship secrets” on our health-related website’s blog when it seems to be more a pr0pos to a Cosmo magazine placement?  Because so many of our patients place their primary relationship at the center of their lives, and the way they relate to their partner, the quality of that relationship, has so much to do with the quality of their health and their lives in general.  So here you go, Lamorinda Healing Arts’ foray into gooshy blog posts:  The Five Secrets to a Great Relationship (from Eric Barker’s Blog, “Barking Up the Wrong Tree.”

I’ve posted a lot about the research behind what makes relationships work — and not work. How can you remember what all these studies have to say?

Just keep the 5 R’s in mind:

1. Right
2. Real
3. Rapport
4. Relate
5. Review


Let’s break them down.

1. Fight right

You might think it would be great if you could have a relationship with zero arguing. But marriages with no arguments are 35 percent more likely to divorce.

Married couples who report they never argue with each other are 35 percent more likely to divorce within four years than are couples who report regularly disagreeing. [100 Simple Secrets of Great Relationships]

Things need to be worked out and you may need to compromise. Being rigid and resistant to new ideas increases conflict by 38 percent.

When asked to describe the state of their relationship, those with a high level of rigidity in habits and thinking — that is, a resistance to new things, new ideas, and changes of any sort — named 38 percent more problems in their relationship than those who were more flexible in their thinking. [100 Simple Secrets of Great Relationships]

Relationships with major disappointments followed by forgiveness are just as stable as ones without major disappointments.

Studies find that those who have experienced a significant disappointment from their partner and have successfully granted their forgiveness to their partner are as likely to maintain a satisfying relationship as are those who had never experienced a similar disappointment in their relationship. [100 Simple Secrets of Great Relationships]

You can’t not argue and you can’t fight to the death. You need to fight right.

If you stay compassionate and show you care — even in the midst of a screaming match — you have a better shot at happiness.

People who maintain a compassionate spirit during disagreements with their partner, considering not just the virtue of their position but the virtue of their partner, have 34 percent fewer disagreements, and the disagreements last 59 percent less time…

When couples experience conflict, they are 45 percent less likely to feel pessimistic about their relationship if they can recognize feelings of caring from their partner during the disagreement. [100 Simple Secrets of Great Relationships]

2. Keep it real

Do you expect a fairy tale relationship? That’s a prescription for disappointment.

Elements of fairy tales such as Cinderella were present in 78 percent of people’s beliefs about romantic love. Those people were more likely to have experienced disillusionment, devastation, and angst in their relationships than were those who gave less credence to fairy tales. [100 Simple Secrets of Great Relationships]

The modern day equivalent of fairy tales is TV. And as you might expect, watching too much TV is correlated with unsatisfying relationships.

People who watched an above average amount of television per day were 26 percent less likely to be satisfied with their relationship status than were people who watched a below average amount of television per day. [100 Simple Secrets of Great Relationships]

It’s all about the bar that’s set for you or the bar you set for yourself. So, as you might imagine, perfectionism does not make for a happy love life either.

People high in perfectionism, a hyperbelief in their own correctness and a desire to find a partner with similar traits, are 33 percent less likely to describe their relationship status as satisfying. [100 Simple Secrets of Great Relationships]

Be realistic about what you can and should expect from a relationship. And realize that things change. A third of the time what attracts you to someone isn’t important to you six months later.

Researchers found that the traits that first attracted people to their partner were no longer relevant to 34 percent of them when asked six months or more after they began dating. [100 Simple Secrets of Great Relationships]

3. Have rapport

Talking, sharing, being open — these are all highly praised, and for good reason. Couples who communicate are 62 percent more likely to describe their relationship as happy.

In studies of marriages of various lengths, couples with a high degree of intimacy between the husband and wife—that is, couples who shared their innermost thoughts—were 62 percent more likely to describe their marriage as happy. [100 Simple Secrets of Great Relationships]

Expecting your partner to be a mind reader will just make you miserable. Want something? Ask for it.

Researchers found that those who are more direct in seeking support from their partner are 61 percent more likely to feel they received the support they wanted than are those who avoid explaining their needs. [100 Simple Secrets of Great Relationships]

If you’re still shopping for a partner, look for someone with good social skills who has maintained friendships for a long time.

People with strong social skills, including an ability to maintain long-term friendships, were 32 percent more likely to be satisfied with their relationship. [100 Simple Secrets of Great Relationships]

More laughing means less fighting.

When both partners in a relationship thought the other had a good sense of humor, 67 percent less conflict was reported than in couples where neither thought the other had a good sense of humor. [100 Simple Secrets of Great Relationships]

Want your marriage to last more than 30 years? Just “being married” isn’t enough: You also need to be good friends.

In studies of people happily married more than three decades, the quality of friendship between the partners was the single most frequently cited factor in the relationships’ success. [100 Simple Secrets of Great Relationships]

4. Relate

Opposites do not attract. Couples that are similar do much better. Pairs that lasted longer than five years usually had a number of interests in common.

In comparing couples who remained together more than five years with couples who split up, researchers found that the couples who stayed together were 64 percent more likely to be able to identify multiple shared interests. [100 Simple Secrets of Great Relationships]

Having similar values offers a huge boost in the ability to communicate.

The degree to which couples have similar values does not change over the course of their relationship. Those with similar values, however, are 22 percent more likely to rate their communication habits positively. [100 Simple Secrets of Great Relationships]

Believe it or not, even having similar fighting styles was a good thing. It was related to double digit drops in conflict and a double digit increase in satisfaction.

While people may employ many different conflict resolution strategies in a relationship, when both partners use the same strategy they experience 12 percent less conflict and are 31 percent more likely to report their relationship is satisfying. [100 Simple Secrets of Great Relationships]

5. Review

Many people are probably reading this, identifying the good things they already do and feeling smug. Sorry, you can’t stop there. Relationships are not a “check the box and you’re done” kind of thing. You need to keep at it, monitoring and improving.

Which feelings and improvements matter most? Recent ones.

Satisfaction in a relationship is eight times more reliant on recent feelings and the ability to perceive improvements than it is based on the history of the relationship. [100 Simple Secrets of Great Relationships]

Plenty of research shows that conscientiousness is a great quality to have in a spouse or partner. Having a partner who is consistently reliable often means a healthy relationship with less conflict.

People who consider their partner conscientious, a person who consistently does what they say they are going to do, were 26 percent more likely to rate their relationship healthy and reported 41 percent less conflict in their relationship. Dependability was rated among the most desired qualities in a partner. [100 Simple Secrets of Great Relationships]

One more thing

Never forget that, in the end, all relationships are about feelings. Especially when fighting, we get caught up in the facts, the details, the words… And what’s funny is little of that ends up mattering. When surveyed about their arguments, people mentioned feelings and tone 10 times as much as the topic of debate. Twenty-five percent of people couldn’t even remember what the argument was about — but they all remembered how it made them feel.

Asked to describe three recent disagreements with their partner, people had 10 times as much to say about their feelings and the tone of the disagreement as about the topic of the disagreement. Twenty-five percent of people forgot the topic of a disagreement but could describe their feelings on the situation. [100 Simple Secrets of Great Relationships]

As Maya Angelou once said, “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

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