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Articles by Jim Martin, LAc
- Cupping in Chinese Medicine
- The Liver: Mental & Emotional Aspects
- What’s Inside Your Medicine Cabinet?
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Articles by Jim Martin, LAc
A ladleful of cold water hisses and pops as it hits the red hot rocks in a tin bucket on the bare wood floor, engulfing me in purifying steam as I enter the ceremony room and take my place against the west wall with the other men. Drummers and singers are already seated to my left, waiting silently in anticipation, while the women enter and find seats on the opposite side of the room. Before me on the bare floor is a pile of sage, and beyond that a row of pots and dishes containing the ceremony food usually consisting of a stew, fry bread, wojape (plum pudding) and coffee, all purified and blessed with a sprig of sweet smelling prairie sage . The walls are bare with the exception of a few sacred articles such as canupas (pronounced cha-new-pah), the sacred pipes, hanging in decorated deer skin pouches, and some ceremonial drums. Against the north wall is the altar, a slightly rounded pile of earth from a mole hill, brushed smooth with an eagle feather and inscribed with a sacred symbol. It is surrounded with tobacco filled prayer ties, small ‘flags’ and a hoop made of choke cherry stems typical of Lakota sacred ceremonies. Sacred rattles which will later perform healing rest at the altar as well. A long string of 405 tobacco ties which I have prepared defines the perimeter of the sacred space and must not be crossed by participants. I have attended many ceremonies with the Chipps family on the east coast as well as here on the plains of windswept South Dakota, but this night is special, for tonight the healing ceremony is for me, the culmination of many days of prayer and preparation.
The Yuwipi healing ceremony is one of the principal ceremonies of the Lakota Sioux people, along with the inipi (sweat lodge) and hanbalecha (vision quest). This particular ceremony was a gift from spirit to the Chipps family generations ago and is practiced by family members to this day, passed along from father to son. The current ‘yuwipi man’ in the family, Godfrey, received the power to talk with spirits at the age of twelve and considered one of the foremost healers of his kind in America today. We first met some years earlier when I sponsored Lakota teachings at my home in Massachusetts, and was later invited to visit the family “in the country” near the town of Wanblee (Eagle) on the Pine Ridge Reservation near the spectacular Badlands.
At first meeting, I found Godfrey to be strikingly different from the image of the classic native American medicine man I had previously held. Here was man in his thirties, (younger that me), short and barrel chested, wearing boots and blue jeans with a printed T shirt and long black hair cascading from a baseball cap bearing the inscription ‘shit happens.’ As I have come to know Godfrey over the years, however, I have come to see him as a warm and sincere human being with flaws and shortcomings like all the rest of us, as one of my principal teachers and spiritual guides, and an extremely dedicated, focused and powerful healer. His role, as he explains it, is ‘spirit interpreter.’ Godfrey receives information directly from the animals, elders and other beings in the spirit world and relays this information on to those individuals in need of healing. This is his unique gift and burden, and I have approached him in the traditional manner, offering my ‘canupa’, requesting healing.
Once all attendees are seated, the canupa is filled with the smoking mix of tobacco, bark and osha root to the accompaniment of the sacred pipe loading song it is then handed to Grandmother Vicki to hold and pray with.
Eventually Godfrey enters the ritual area and removes his shirt and shoes. Assistants bind his hands behind his back, then wrap him entirely in a star quilt which is in turn bound with deer skin thongs. He is gently placed face down upon the bed of sage and we are ready to begin. My excitement soars as the flickering light of the lone kerosene lantern fades and we are left in absolute dark, the world of spirit, wonder and mystery. A rapid burst of drumming accompanied by the voices of singers pierces the silent blackness as ancient healing songs invite the spirits to enter and participate. I am directed to stand, offer prayer and request healing. Suddenly, the rattles lying at the alter are taken up by the unseen spirit beings and fly about the room, shaking and sparking against the ceiling before coming to me for ‘doctoring’ in which they rapidly but gently shake against my body from head to foot. Godfrey’s muffled voice can be heard as he speaks with the spirits and receives further instructions from them for herbal formulas, behavioral changes further ceremonies to be performed and so on. Next, the star quilt is thrown against me, indicating that Godfrey has been freed by the spirits and the healing has taken place. After a few more songs the lamps are lit, revealing Godfrey untied and sitting up, recovering. The canupa is passed around the room and smoked by all. After prayers we feast, and the ceremony is complete.
I have seen many incredible and mystical things around the world and the Yuwipi ceremony, performed right here in America, ranks among the top. I give thanks for the opportunity to share this healing experience with the Chipps family and all the Lakota people. Mitakue Oyassin – All My Relations.
Jim Martin, LAc
Having just returned from spending an incredible week with the most unusual and amazing person I have ever met, I am bubbling to tell everyone I see about the experience. Some people are immediately engaged, asking questions and expressing sincere interest, while others don’t register the slightest curiosity at all, as if I had spoken to them in a foreign language. They seem unable to comprehend the significance of what I am relating. Such it is, trying to share the story of a woman who has not eaten or slept for fifty years, prays almost unceasingly, bleeds from the cross shaped wounds on her hands and feet, enters a state of grace in which she channels blessings and medical remedies from God, and is in constant communion with the Holy Spirit.
The story of my reunion with Sister Susan Kuruvilla after more than twenty years is a unique example of the power of the World Wide Web, as well as the potential far ranging effects of this newspaper, the New Connexion. My original article on Sister Susan appeared on these pages last November. Some weeks later I began receiving emails about the story, including one from a man in Michigan who had who had red about Sister Susan in a book published in the 1970s called People Living in the 21st Century, and wanted to travel to India to visit her. He had searched the web for information on her and found just one reference, my Connexion article. Several emails later he informed me that he had located Sister Susan and that she was in Toronto, not India, that he was going there to see her, and that she wanted me to call her on the phone. It was truly wonderful hearing her voice after all these years, even though I have a difficult time understanding her accent, heavily influenced by her native language Malayalam. She told me about her orphanage in India, up from about 25 residents when I visited to about 125, many living in shacks covered with palm fronds since the monsoon rains destroyed one of the main ashram buildings. A chapel had been built with contributions from generous benefactors, but a medical clinic remained incomplete due to lack of funds. As always, it is a constant struggle to care for the children who are in need of food, clothing, medical care and education. We exchanged photographs by mail – my small family and her big one. She asked me to locate a man in New Jersey who had won a 93 million dollar lottery and ask him for assistance, which I did, but without reply to date. Learning that Sister Susan would be in Canada only until August, I put my family on the plane and set out for Toronto.
We were met at the airport by Sister Susan, Father Matthew, her sponsors Rita and Denise and assistant Pheejo. Sister Susan, wrapped in white, seemed little changed despite her 75 years. Her soft smile, calm presence and radiant loving nature were all so comfortably familiar. When we hugged, I detected layers of soft cloth, sweetly perfumed, but no solid body inside, like a big cotton ball. Not surprising, I was to think some time later, considering that she never eats solid food and x-rays have revealed a totally withered digestive system. Father Matthew, who has been with her as an assistant since he was healed of asthma at age 13, is recently ordained as a priest of the Orthodox Church and remains in her company. Rita and Denise proved to be wonderful, generous hosts, and we instantly felt like old friends. Pheejo cooked wonderful Indian meals and played with daughter Tara.
The next day Sister Susan experienced ‘The Pain’, as she has twice weekly since first marked with the stigmata as a teenager. Surrounded by about a dozen friends and visitors crammed into her tiny room, chanting and praying for her, she entered just as the bleeding resumed and lay down on a mattress. For the next half hour she thrashed about as the pain seared her frail body, all the while calling out to God and praying. Next, entering the grace period, she suddenly went limp and rolled onto her back, exhausted. Her voice became deep and resonant as she continued to pray, blessing dozens of people and their families, including my own. Next was a period of speaking with reference to scripture, with guidelines for leading a proper life such as avoiding pride and greed. Lastly, we met with her individually for personal blessings, questions and, for many help with medical issues. In response to a request for guidance helping my father who recently suffered a stroke, I was told to pray and sponsor 33 Gregorian masses, currently being performed in India as I write. Others were given specific medications, including homeopathic remedies. The Holy Spirit is a homeopath! When asked about this, Sister Susan replied that she knows nothing about homeopathy, but that God recommends these remedies because they can do no harm.
The week was filled with stories of miracle healings and amazing events. In one case, a woman talked about Sister Susan being in two places at once, and performing a long distance healing. She felt electric sensations in her body while sleeping with her grand daughter, and dreamed that Sister Susan, then in India, had come to her in spirit. The woman then called Sister Susan, who confirmed the healing, and asked about the little girl whom she did not recognize. From that day on, a digestive system disorder was dramatically improved.
I came out of this incredible experience with a renewed sense of reverence, respect for a spiritual tradition with which I am not all that familiar, and understanding of the power of prayer. My commitment to the Sister Susan is to inform people about her Ashram and orphanage, and encourage people to make contributions to its operation. For example, one can become a lifetime member of the Ashram for 70 dollars, for which we receive daily prayers from Sister Susan as well as a set of masses for us and family members at the time of our death. I am also collecting funds for ashram operations, and computers to send to India to train the children. Anyone interested in participating may contact me directly for information.
Jim Martin, LAc
Among the volumes of printed material and hours of televised programming commemorating 9-11 and how it has changed our country, one item that caught my attention was a recent report on the heightened stress levels now experienced by Americans, and most notably New Yorkers. One manifestation of the damaging effects of prolonged stress there is absenteeism from work, which has increased dramatically since 9-11.
Closer to home, recent developments in the stock market, widespread job layoffs and the Iraq War have devastated many families’ finances, resulting in tremendous stress as they struggle to save homes, retirements and their children’s educations.
In my practice, I see the results of stressful lifestyles and events in the form of symptoms including digestive disorders, neck and shoulder tension and pain, headaches, insomnia and depression. While some people may consider these complaints to be simply inconvenient and unpleasant, I wonder how many are aware of the long term problems associated with unrelenting stresses in our lives. It is estimated that 80% of all visits to physicians today are stress related. Many diseases including autoimmune disorders, heart disease, diabetes, arthritis, Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis, and other conditions such as acne, memory loss and learning disabilities are all brought on by stress.
The human stress response has evolved as the body’s reaction to dangerous or physically demanding situations. For example, imagine a caveman, armed with a rock and sharp stick, encountering a twelve foot long saber tooth tiger. His body immediately goes in to the ‘fight or flight’ mode, preferably flight in this particular situation. Adreneline, ACTH cortisol hormones rush into the bloodstream. Blood is directed to essential tissues and organs such as the heart and muscles, while stomach acid secretion and the digestive function cease. He leaps over a ravine, scampers up a cliff like a goat, and sprints to the safety of his cave. There he collapses, heart pounding, and sleeps for the remainder of the day, recovering from his ordeal. The next week he is ready to do the same thing again.
In out modern society, however, there is no opportunity for recovery. As stresses from sources including traffic, work (or lack of it), TV news, air pollution, electrical appliances and so on accumulate, hormone levels climb. Some of us get accustomed to these elevated levels, becoming ‘adrenaline addicts’ requiring highly stimulating activities such as bungie jumping or car racing to feel alive. Cortisol destroys brain cells in areas related to learning and memory. Poor digestion and assimilation lead to malnutrition, and further complications including immune and endocrine system depletion. We are, as the old saying goes, ‘burning the candle at both ends.’ The long term outlook is not a pretty one. Stress has become a big enough medical problem today that it was featured on both Time and Newsweek as the cover story.
In this time of heightened stress loads and the resultant negative impact health, I was very pleased some time ago to come across an intriguing herbal formula designed specifically to fight stress. I have lots of stress formulas to choose from, often B vitamin complex and a few relaxant herbs, but this product was unique. The story of its development is a most unusual and interesting one.
Early in the Cold War, the Soviet Academy of Sciences created a team of 1200 Soviet biologists and physicians who were assigned the task of developing a natural, plant based formula to combat the negative effects of stress. It was intended for use by the country’s most high performing people, including Olympic athletes, Bolshoi Ballet dancers, cosmonauts and the military, to give them a competitive advantage over other countries. Funded by a billion dollar budget, they produced over three thousand scientific papers spanning forty five years in what has been described as one of the most massive programs of human testing in scientific history. We did not hear about this research because it was kept secret until, after the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the final formula known as Prime One was brought to America by the project leader, Dr. Israel Breckman.
Among thousands of plant chemicals studied, a few were found to possess extraordinary stress relieving abilities. They were called adaptogens, as they help the human body adapt to the destructive effects of stress. Among the many benefits are the ability to increase energy, strength, stamina, endurance, recovery, mental work capacity, immunity, sexual function, growth rates in premature babies and life expectancy following exposure to harmful radiation; to improve sleep, to help us cope with anxiety, fear and worry; to protect human cells from chemical toxins; to suppress high levels of damaging hormones and prevent damage from oxygen free radicals. Thousands of studies found them to be safe, with no negative side effects.
The highly successful Russian Olympic team trained on this formula for years, and my patients are reporting benefits today. It was used by the police and firefighters cleaning up the ruins of the TradeTowers in New York City. I took it on a twenty six hour flight to South Africa last month and found people there to be using it as well. I recommend it to anyone seeking a better quality of life.
Jim Martin, L Ac, Dipl. Ac (NCCAOM)
herbs, adaptogens, stress, performance, athletes, Olympics, memory, endurance, strength,
Calcutta is every bit the bizarre and wonderful experience it is portrayed to be in literature and films. Images of families living in ramshackle huts under bridges, or sitting with their few earthly possessions on crowded sidewalks, still linger in my mind as if they occurred just yesterday. Workers toil under heavy bags of rice or wooden wagons piled high with merchandise. Rickshaw runners pull overweight women dressed in brightly colored saris in and out of the congestion of taxis, trucks, animals and pedestrians on their way to worship at the local temple. Fare for a mile runs about a rupee, eight cents American, as I recall. Beggars occupy unclaimed patches of sidewalk, hands outstretched to receive any coin or scrap of food a passerby might generously offer. In front of the post office a naked, armless boy jumps up and down, screaming, held on a short leash by a woman sitting on the hot pavement. She shakes a can of small coins, requesting donations for her hapless child. Unfortunately, the baby mutilation and rent-for-sympathy racket is thriving in India, and it is impossible to know if the boy is really hers or just some poor child exploited and abused for monetary profit. Returning to our hotel in the evening we pass a man lying on the sidewalk, motionless. He was there this morning when we went out for our day’s adventures. I wonder if he is even still alive. These are the poor unfortunate souls who have for many years been the beneficiaries of the love and labors of Mother Teresa of Calcutta.
My first meeting with Mother Teresa was quicker and easier than I had ever imagined. I arrived one morning with two traveling companions at her headquarters, and enquired with a secretary as to the possibility of seeing her at some point in the future. Moments later, Mother Teresa appeared, and casually began to chat. Small, lean, soft spoken and humble, she was hardly the western model of an international celebrity, the recent recipient of a Nobel Prize for Peace. After a short conversation which, to my dismay, focused on us rather that her, she excused herself and returned to a meeting in progress. I was so taken back by the fact that she had actually taken time to see three scruffy New Age hippy types that it didn’t matter- a few moments of ‘darshan’ in the presence of a saint was all that I required. I decided to visit her again and see the other facilities under her direction.
Nirmal Hriday is the home for the destitute and dying, and certainly a defining experience for me on my journey around the planet in search of things strange and wonderful. Rows of low beds offer a final resting place for many homeless people rescued from sidewalks and gutters. They are bathed and fed by members of the Sisters of Charity assisted by some volunteers and allowed to die with dignity. Those who survive may move ahead to a better life, or end up here again at a future time or, in some cases, dedicate their lives to the mission and become members of the order. In my talks on Chinese medicine when I speak about the ‘shen’ spirit which gives brightness to the eyes, I use a man I saw here as example, his dull lifeless eyes indicative of the loss of spirit from his being.
A bus ride to the dusty outskirts of Calcutta brings one to the neighborhood of the leperosarium. Walking along the train tracks, we passed a yard full of low cast ‘harijans’ (untouchables) butchering carcasses of dead cattle among hopping, squawking vultures- a truly hideous spectacle right out of an Edgar Allen Poe horror story, and one of the creepiest sights I have ever witnessed. Inside the center was quite another story. Men and women receive medical care here, as well as employment manufacturing clothing on hand operated looms. The impact of this place on the lives of leprosy victims cannot be overstated. The disease spells disaster for those seeking to marry and lead any kind of normal lives, and a cure offers the possibility of a happy future rather than years of torment begging on the streets while face and limbs are slowly eaten away by the disease. The image of a young boy seated on his bed as I debated whether or not to take his picture (which I did, with permission) is another one deeply imprinted in my mind and which I will carry with me always.
The last facility I visited was the orphanage. Mother Teresa was in the courtyard, talking to visitors and directing foot and vehicle traffic like a traffic cop, tiny yet very energetic and fully in control of the situation. In contrast to the other facilities, this one is filled with happy, smiling babies. Some lucky children were destined for lives with European and American families, and I saw several leaving in the loving arms of their new parents. One incident I witnessed here was particularly remarkable, a truly telling moment with Mother Teresa. I spoke with her briefly, then stood to the side, watching her pass from crib to crib visiting each child in turn, when a nurse approached to infirm her that one baby was dying or had just passed over. Mother Teresa went immediately to the child, held her, no doubt offering prayers and immersing the baby in her aura of pure love and compassion. Moments later the child returned to life, and I returned to my hotel wondering just what it was I had witnessed.
Although she has passed over a few years ago, Mother Teresa’s work continues and her spirit lives on in the hearts of people such as myself who have been touched by her incredible power, strength, compassion and generosity.
Jim Martin, LAc. , Dipl. Ac. (NCCAOM)
Serving Washington and Columbia counties since 1994, including cities and communities of Scappoose, St Helens, Warren, Rainier, Columbia City, Hillsboro, Forest Grove, Beaverton, Aloha, Portland, Gaston, Banks, North Plains, Carlton and Yamhill Oregon
As I prepare my morning herbal immune building juice drink I recall two news items that caught my attention several years ago. Both deal with threats to the American public from disease producing germs, viruses and bacteria, and the inability of modern western medicine to adequately protect us from the havoc they may wreak on our society.
The first article is entitled ‘Scientists Say New Virus Can Cause a Pandemic’, from the January 17 issue of USA Today newspaper. While ‘epidemic’ is defined as a disease affecting many persons in a locality, ‘pandemic’ refers to a disease prevalent throughout an entire country. The incident discussed was the influenza during World War 1 that killed tens of millions of people worldwide, including many in America.
The statement that “The death rate grew 50% from 1980 to 1992 from infectious diseases once thought to be nearly vanquished by modern medicine in the USA” particularly caught my attention. One significant factor in this frightening trend is the emergence of the MDRBs, ‘multiple drug resistant bacteria’, which cannot be treated with any known medications. Ironically, these supergerms are actually being unintentionally created by our medical system through overuse of antibiotics for treatment of infections and for stimulating weight gain in cattle. Bacterial strains evolve in an environment of diluted antibiotics and, through mutations, become immune to them. The weaker germs die off, leaving only the strongest, most virulent ones to repopulate and spread. The other irony in this sad state of affairs is that the best place to contract an untreatable strain of staph or pneumococcus seems to be in the hospital, the place we rely on for healing from, not exposure to, disease.
The article goes on to say that ‘A flu virus that no one has ever been exposed to-one that can move swiftly causing illness and death, social chaos and disaster around the globe- could be incubating in a remote area of China. The prospect of pandemic influenza has scientists stocking up the public health equivalent of sandbags in anticipation of the coming flood.’ I recall a noted immunologist quoted in the article stating that, in the event of such a disaster striking America, “There is not a damn thing we can do about it,” and that millions of people would succumb to the illness.
A more recent report concerns an October 20, 2001 interview on Fox Network with Dr. Ken Alibek, president of Hadron Advanced Biosystems, which contracts to the federal government, currently developing medical defenses for anthrax for the US Army. It is most interesting to note, then, that the anthrax strains which killed five Americans appear to have originated not from Iraq or Russia but from the US military.
Dr. Alibek, formerly known as Kanatjan Alibekov, was a Russian scientist who developed biological weapons for the Soviet Union for nearly twenty years, responsible for 32,000 employees in forty facilities. He defected to America in 1992 with the personal and professional goal of making the greatest possible contribution to eliminating the danger of biological weapons.
Dr. Alibek says that when dealing with anthrax used in biological weapons, which has a 90% fatality rate, the usual form of antibiotic treatment is largely ineffective. So much, then, for hoarding Cipro or other medications. When asked what he then recommended to the American people, he replied that the best defense against the threat of anthrax or other biological pathogens is to build the immune system using antioxidant herbs and vitamins, including vitamins A and E and selenium. It is quite remarkable, I feel that one of the top experts in the world in the field of biological weapons dismisses the value of drugs and, instead, recommends the use of natural medicine to build immunity against disease. This is, after all, what practitioners such as myself have been recommending to patients and customers for years, only to see them gobbling up bottles of antibiotics instead, eventually experiencing the inevitable side effects such as digestive system dysfunction resulting from elimination of healthy and helpful intestinal bacteria.
To summarize, then, we have a top virologist saying that when a major viral or bacterial pandemic strikes us millions of people will die and a top expert agreeing that current medications will be largely ineffective, and recommending that we protect ourselves with immune system building supplements. The next step is which ones to choose from among the hundreds of products on the shelves.
One of the most popular herbs for this purpose is Echinacea. which stimulates immune components including antibodies, macrophages, NK cells, promotes phagocytosis (eating germs), and lymphatic circulation. Cat’s Claw (Uncaria tomentosa), St John’s Wort, and Chinese herbs such as astragalus and Korean ginseng enhance immunity by tonifying the ‘wei chi’ defensive energy, increasing white blood cell counts, and countering immune suppressive effects of pharmaceutical drugs. Recently, many products composed of medicinal Chinese mushrooms including coriolus, cordyceps, ganoderma and maitake have gained popularity for their reported ability to boost immunity, inhibit bacteria and viruses and inhibit tumors.
In addition, foods such as garlic, and nutrients including beta carotene, vitamins B-6, C and E, and minerals zinc, selenium, copper and germanium are known to be helpful. Bovine colostrum has many benefits, as do friendly bacteria (probiotics). Your natural health care practitioner can help you select a product most suited to your specific immune system needs. Have a healthy and happy winter!!
© 2009 Jim Martin, LAc., Dipl Ac. (NCCAOM)
Serving Washington and Columbia counties since 1994, including cities and communities of Scappoose, St Helens, Warren, Rainier, Columbia City, Hillsboro, Forest Grove, Beaverton, Aloha, Portland, Gaston, Banks, North Plains, Carlton and Yamhill Oregon
immunity, virus, bacteria, influenza, Cipro, antioxidant, herbs