Night Sky Acupuncture + Ideaphoria

Liz Greenhill, LAc.

Liz Greenhill, LAc. offers two types of services: Acupuncture and Creativity Consulting. State licensed and nationally certified as an acupuncturist and herbalist for ten years, Liz crafts your in-office Acupuncture sessions into a true somatic experience, with a magical combination of acupuncture, acupressure and guided visualization. Creativity Consultations are one-on-one experiences on the phone or in-person in which your creative project gets our full focus: ideaphoria, active listening, the application of eastern medicine’s energetics, principles, and theories, and creative visualization, so that you can learn to source new ideas and insights from an embodied and energized space. Hotel and house calls sessions and pop-up group experiences are available upon request. Liz travels to consult and co-create with artists and groups.

Between Bodies and This Earth

After 911, I left the New York City art world where I’d been a studio assistant for several years, and went to graduate school to study Chinese Medicine. I had no interest in Science (sorry/not sorry!), I was interested in bodies—with their universal sameness and uniqueness all at once. Bodies strike me as living breathing art, and this field of study provided a complex academic forum for ways to evaluate bodies hands-on with a holistic perspective. Acupuncture school was grueling but I also loved it, mostly. There were so many Science classes though, and they were really challenging for me. In Western society I suppose Acupuncture is sometimes considered a Science, but it isn’t really a Science, it’s more of an Theory Based Practice, like Art. I think Chinese Medicine lives within a spectrum between Art, Science and Mysticism. It’s a Medicine. And the root of this medicine is especially old, ancient even, and it all boils down to an image: the body is a small earth, a little ecosystem, in which the sun and moon rise and set, rivers flow, and the seasons change.

 

Of course there’s a lot more to it. There are theories and protocols and diagnoses and a ton of textbooks and subtleties and all kinds of landmarks in the body and in the symptoms we look for. It’s different from Western Medicine in that it’s subjective and empirical. It’s based on listening and observing and recognizing patterns. There is no tech. There are no tests. We treat the body as it shows up at the session, per the patient’s self-report and per our own observations from looking and listening and feeling and touching.

 

Every body is a landscape. Every body is its own planet. Each of us can be seen, known, and understood by a series of metaphors that fit us all.

 

The heart is a torch. The liver is a forest. The pelvic bowl is an ocean. Rivers run down our limbs. Our bones are scaffolds of stone and mineral glimmering within the earth. The flesh is that earth, dirt, soil, and the micro-biome that blooms from it. If the forest does not have enough water to drink up through the soil, the wood becomes brittle and more likely to snap in the wind rather than bend. These are ways of understanding the ecosystem of the Heart, Liver, and Kidneys. Chinese Medicine has an image-laden foundation.

 

Chinese Medicine abounds with seeing the body in metaphor, symbolism, and poetry. Each body is a map of energy like rivers, and each river hones to an organ system, and that organ’s counter-part organ, and they all have sounds and smells and colors and emotions and thought processes and weather systems of affiliation. An imbalance in the organ systems shows through on multiple levels. Smells carried in the breath, the urine, the stool. We look for colors beneath the skin tone and tongue like a painting that’s been gessoed over but you can still see small evidence of the earlier draft. We look for layers and we draw meandering connective lines across each person’s map. The colors and flavors and emotions of each organ are therapeutic to that system in the proper amounts, but detrimental in excess.

 

The heart: red, fire, singing, bitter, rancid, joy, shame, and ego

The spleen: yellow, earth, sweet, nourishment, smothering, fog

The lungs: white, metal, grief, reflection, acrid, dryness, immunity, boundaries

 

The solar plexus can be pinched by anger or loosened with creative expression. The immune system is an army mobilizing just beneath the skin, which is like our cell membrane, and our pores are doors, and when we have allergies or a cold the doors are flimsy, flying open in the wind. Fire can burn the landscape of our bodies, in the throat, the stomach, beneath the skin—anywhere fraught with infection. Healing the earth after a fire requires enough support so that springs open and burble up from beneath the peaty crust. We have the equivalent of something precious and viscous like oil within us. It  imbues the sex organs and darkens the hair, keeps the skin plump, and naturally runs lower and lower the more we age. Some of the organs are called extraordinary because they do not have their own rivers and cannot be named by their land. The brain is one. The uterus another.

 

Yin organs are hollow and yang organs are full and always moving. Blood is assessed by the quality of it which you can tell by looking at the tongue and complexion and feeling the pulse. Is it: dry, stuck, depleted, too cold or too hot, or moving in the wrong direction?

 

Energy zips up our backs like sunrise, and slips down our fronts like moonglow. Every day is a twenty-four-part cycle of various small and large transformations.

 

Mapped on the body are 365 points on 20 channels often called meridians, which I liken to paths or rivers, and it’s fair and reasonable and helpful to sometimes find a point off-road and utilize it.  

 

When we place needles in the body, they are the width of a hair, stainless steel and disposable, and it is the most minimally invasive way to enter the channels to change a person’s energy flow.

 

The purpose of acupuncture and herbal medicine and therapeutic touch is simply to help the energy move from where it is stuck (pain, illness, and emotional distress), because when it is stuck in one area it is running low in another. Think of a river with a dam, or a fallen tree, and how the water level would be lower than normal downstream.

 

The purpose of acupuncture and herbal medicine and therapeutic touch is less-simply to: tame wild fire, nourish low levels of water or yin or blood or qi, warm up rundown yang, or sometimes anchor flyaway yang, balance fluids via the digestive system so that the soil is neither too damp nor too dry, clear congested qi as if turning a fan on in a stuffy room.

 

And what, you might wonder, even is qi? Qi is a word for energy. It is the energetics that runs through us. Those invisible rivers of energy we feel when a practitioner presses on (or needles) one point on the body and we feel it in another place all together. Qi is the mysterious thing that makes us alive, and makes every cell in our bodies alive. It’s funny that we don’t have a word for it in Western culture. It’s simple life, but with an embodied specificity. Qi is everywhere, it is also matter. There is qi in your desk or your wool sweater. But the qi in your body is different. It is adaptable, vulnerable, and resilient. The qi in our bodies is subject to fall into imbalance or illness, and it is also capable of great change and healing itself.

 

Think of the last time you cut your finger. Isn’t it a miracle that it healed? The skin was severed, the bleeding wouldn’t stop perhaps, and then it did, and then it scabbed, and eventually the scab peeled off, and there was a scar and then the scar dissolved to some degree, maybe entirely, maybe not entirely. Maybe you can still feel it.

 

There’s so much that we can feel in our body that we so often turn off. Right now, just right now, feel the soles of your feet. Not with your hands, just with your mind, your awareness. Feel the skin along the soles of the feel, let each pore recognize the temperature and the objects it touches and also the energy moving through it. We can’t deny there is energy. Always there is blood carried and cell regeneration, and electricity in the nervous system, the ability to feel pain. Each speck of our bodies brims with vitality.

 

Have you ever had a buzzing sensation in your body somewhere? That’s stuck qi. A real thick traffic jam, most likely. Have you ever had your body ache in a slight and deep way, not pain, just something deep beneath the skin, sometimes accompanied by a flutter or twitch? It’s a common feeling when getting acupuncture, but you’ve likely had it other times as well. That’s the feeling of the qi moving from where it was stuck. Like the slow churn of a traffic jam unfurling. Where movement enters into a place of stillness and disbands it.

 

I could talk about Chinese Medicine all day, and metaphors of the body, and the ways we understand each other using these ancient poetics, but that isn’t the point I’m going for. The point I want to make is that metaphor isn’t just something to be thought, it can be felt. Poetry can be a medicine. Image can be a medicine. They are medicines in that they affect the body and can assist in a curative way. Seeing the body as an illuminated map which we are in charge of interpreting and grafting can help us understand ourselves better and actually help us heal. What I’m getting at, is that to understand the body, we don’t have to dissect it or reduce it to make the comprehension of it palatable, we need to get creative and enter the imagination, to the crux where the body and the dreaming mind meet. When we are open to making surprising connections—between bodies and this earth—and surrendering to the mystery of it all—and being curious enough and committed to follow the trail that comes of it, this ball of yarn tumbling down a midnight hill running through your gently grasped fists, we discover new ways of seeing. Isn’t that what we always want—new ways of seeing—as artists and scientists and people dedicated to learning and growing?

HOW TO GET UNSTUCK

 

You know the feeling––low, hopeless, uninspired, frustrated, all jammed up. You feel stuck. It's hard to imagine feeling better. There was a time when you felt free, expressive, excited, ignited, but now all that feels completely out of reach. We all get stuck. It's a place I come back to again and again, and I've come to understand that it's a part of my creative process. Stuckness is a resting place I come to which sometimes feels like a wall or a well. It's an uncomfortable place to be in, and I think that while it is unlikeable, it is also an opportunity to rediscover our best tools, regain our footing, and also discover something new. 

 

When we feel stuck we need resources. Ironically, this is often when we forget what our resources are or how to utilize them. Consider this list a brainstorm for how to remember what to do to get unstuck. This list does not provide a quick fix forever. It's intended to give you options for how to jostle loose from that uncomfortable place. It's here to help you make an effort, to take the initiative of bringing motion and creativity back into your day. Pick something or a few things on the list and let  yourself unfurl so that your perspective shifts and you free up some energy to invest in what you care about.

 

Here are 10 things to help you get unstuck:

 

1. List your resources.

You have probably been through this before, and you know yourself, so you've already learned some tricks for what to do when you feel this way. Now you just need to remember what works. What or who comforts you? What gets your blood moving? What unleashes your emotions? What heightens your senses? Brainstorm on these four questions and scribble down some answers. Are there people in your life who give good advice, pep talks, or know how to listen? Write their names down. If you don't have these people at hand, you might want to hire a professional: a therapist or life coach.

 

2. Create Movement and Expression. 

Get your body and emotional self moving. Some people look to exercise as a key player. Let's think of stuckness as energetic: as stagnant stillness. Moving your body is one way to shake things up. Not into jogging? Try dancing. Put on the kind of music you used to dance to when you were younger. Make it loud so you can't resist getting into it. Get your emotions to release. Whatever expression means to you, be it downloading all your feelings into a journal or diary, talking with a friend or a therapist, talking aloud, or thrashing it out in the privacy of your own home. The last one is recommended by Anusuya Starbear, a Process Work therapist, who suggests basically staging a one-person show in your living room where you say and spray everything you're feeling inside. The more desperate, pathetic, and misguided the better. Not holding anything back, this technique most often ends inevitably in a crying fit. It might sound odd, but if you can allow yourself that type of uninhibited expression, you will clear out some stuckness in your emotional body. Maybe you need a massage or an acupuncture session. In Chinese Medicine, we treat stuckness all the time through the meridians and energetics. We understand that stuck energy  moves when you handle it, guide, and soothe it. We identify that stuckness can be due to trapped feelings of anger or frustration, the antidotes to which are expression and activism. Activism means finding your voice and using it.

 

3. Remember what serves you.

Write a list of the things you brainstormed in Step 1 and tape it to the wall or keep it in your phone or both. Make it accessible. On the list put at least ten things you can do when you are feeling especially stuck and low on ideas. For example: exercise, acupuncture, meditate, guided visualization, ____ podcast (choose one that makes you laugh and also feel less lonely), listen to Storycorps podcast (to open up in  empathy to others), list all the reasons you are grateful today, pull weeds in the garden, go to a yoga class, cook _____ (something you love or have always wanted to try), clean the bathroom, clean out some closets, write in your diary, call your best friend or someone who gives good pep talks, call me for a 10 minute guided visualization (link). 

 

4. Ask yourself what you really want to do or make.

If you found out you had only one last chance to do or make something, what would it be? Look for that urge. That burning desire. Identify your cause. Write it down and describe it using at least a paragraph.

 

5. Investigate the stuckness.

Get inside the stuckness. Listen to it. Is it whining, crying out, stubborn? If you give the stuckness a voice and let it speak its truth, what does it say? Give some thought as to why things are not moving. Maybe you are stuck because you are caught in indecision. A state of indecision is when part of you wants something and part of you wants something different. Do you have two desires bumping into each other? Do you have a quandary of values at a crossroads? See if you can sleuth out some information, and you can always ask a wise friend or counselor for help.

 

6. Remember it's normal to get stuck.

The creative process is as circuitous and varied as the seasons of the year. There are times of ripe productivity and harvest, and times that are fallow. Ask yourself what season you are in internally. Does it match the external world? See if there is a reason you are not creating or thriving. If you have recently completed a large project, or otherwise need to rest, or have experienced a large emotional challenge lately (such as grief or extreme stress) you might be asking too much of yourself to be highly productive. It's possible that you need to prioritize rest or recuperating first.  Maybe your creative self is underground, resting, like tiny seeds laying in wait to sprout.

 

7. Shift your perspective

Ask yourself what the key themes are to your stuckness. For example, procrastination, self-doubt, indecision, overwhelm. Look at each theme and see if you can shift your thinking around it. For example, instead of seeing procrastination as a bad habit you have to break, ask yourself what your procrastination really is... some type of stoppage, maybe a way of slowing down, or a nonlinear thought process interrupting your main objective. Look into that. If there's something that is happening too fast for you, your behavior might be asking you to slowing down and making you wait. Is there, perhaps, some key ingredient or step that hasn't happened yet? Is learning to be faster or slower a theme in your life in other ways? If you are procrastinating with distractions, ask yourself if you might be trying to go about your goals too directly, if maybe you need some more varied input, and what that might be in a way that's more helpful than procrastinating. Or, maybe procrastinating is a way you get your blood and adrenaline pumping at the last minute. If that's the case, ask yourself if you like working under pressure, and want to continue that, or if there might be another way you could up your interest in a timelier fashion.

 

8. Make some time.

Often times, we know there are activities that will help us get unstuck but we don't have time. Or we think we don't have time. Focus on an activity you think you don't have time for. Ask yourself how much the minimum allowance of time would be to make something of it. For example, you might think you don't have time to exercise. But could you squeeze in a 30 minute jog? That ends up being about 3 miles which is quite an accomplishment. Or, maybe you want to start drawing again but don't feel like you have the time. What if you drew for five minutes each evening for a week?  See if that loosens you up. Ask yourself what the maximum amount of time would be for you to be happily immersed in your desired activity. If there were a continuum from the minimum to the maximum, see yourself stepping into that gradient.

 

9. Integrate your Imagination into your Body.

Let's get creative. Follow along with me. Envision your stuckness as a thing inside your body, like a hologram. Maybe it looks like a stone or a hole or an object. Just use your imagination, you can't do it wrong, and you can do it over as many times as you want. Just try. With your eyes closed, see the image in your body in a specific location. For example, a metal shield in your belly. Imagine a stop-motion fast-forward kind of time lapse on the image, as it changes. In my example, maybe the shield rusts, erodes and crumbles into the ground and becomes soil. Or, let's say you saw a stone in your chest. Maybe a hand comes in and grabs it, or the latitude changes and it rolls down a hill.

 

10. Surround yourself with Reminders.

It's easy to forget your tools, resources, tricks, and reminders, so you have to make them easily memorable. Create sticky notes (literally or figuratively) and keep them visible and handy. If you like plans, sketch out a new calendar with some of these improvements built in, including making time, and getting exercise, maybe meditating, or some of the ways mentioned above to stir the senses and open the emotions. Or maybe you are someone who likes taping images to the walls of your workspace or putting talismans in your path. Remember, your life is your design. You, like all of us, are a work in process. Ask yourself what you can do to keep moving today, and how you can set up a habitat conducive to the projects you feel the urge to complete in the near future.

 

And if, after reading this, you feel you need a guide to help you through these steps, or, you want to learn how to make customized visualizations to engage your body and imagination, then get in touch with me. I work with individuals, groups, and agencies. I can help you learn these tools one-on-one on the phone or internet, and I could talk about it all day on your podcast or public speaking event. Let's work together to make the world more full of ideas, art, and things that matter!

 

 

Liz Asch Greenhill has a BA in English from Vassar, an MFA in Creative Nonfiction from Eastern Oregon University, and a Masters in Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine. She works as an artist, writer, acupuncturist, and in combination as a creativity consultant and artists' assistant, helping people explore their creative projects and process through embodiment.

 

Creativity www.lizasch.com/artist-assistance   •  Acupuncture www.lizgreenhill.com

 

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