I have added this page to help people better understand my world view and clinical philosophy, beyond what's already posted on this website. Many people who inquire about or visit my practice, assume I must hold certain beliefs about the world because I'm an acupuncturist & bodyworker who teaches body-oriented mindfulness.
While I have deep appreciation for the wisdom traditions of indigenous peoples, it's important to recognize that aboriginal beliefs, whether from India, China or the various healing practices across the world, are all rooted in a pre-scientific understanding of the world. As such, many mind-body practices like acupuncture, meditation and certain massage techniques, while experientially valid, often rely on unscientific or folk theories to explain how and why they work. Regrettably, many people mistake these non-scientific explanations for the actual mechanism of action. This then leads many scientifically minded people to conclude that these disciplines or techniques only work because of the placebo effect.
Ideas have consequences. The consequences of some ideas are benignly constructive, while others are perniciously toxic. Ideas also possess a life-like quality in that they tend to evolve over time, often becoming tangential to the original seed that germinated them. This is quite common with the different philosophical paradigms of alternative medicine. The main problem with alternative medicine isn't so much the various disciplines and modalities of which it's comprised, but rather, the alternative reality that many of these disciplines promote. I'm particularly critical of the paranormal and mystical explanations that inexplicably and incomprehensibly seem to dominate the field of mind-body and alternative medicine.
*Please note that I'm still in the process of adding videos and organizing them into a better thematic sequence. Please bear with me during this process.*
In Dan Dennett's 2002 TED talk on Dangerous Memes, he explores how ideas or memes influence behavior. As Dennett points out, the solution to bad ideas isn't to eradicate them, but rather, to immunize ourselves with better ideas.
This video clip from a 1990's episode of 20/20 features Emily Rosa, who tested the validity of Therapeutic Touch as part of a 5th grade science project. The results of her experiment were published in the Journal of the American Medical Association and have been widely cited by skeptics as debunking not only the existence of the human energy field, but also the therapeutic value of techniques like Therapeutic Touch.
As I mentioned previously, conflating a disciplines proposed mechanism of action with its therapeutic efficacy is an unfortunate yet all too common error in basic logic.
Therapeutic Touch, Reiki, and other similar disciplines are being practiced now more than ever and recipients are obviously experiencing some degree of benefit, so the question we need to ask is, why.
As a student of Polarity Therapy myself, I realized many years ago that the benefits of gently touching (and not touching) the body has nothing to do with energy. Instead, it has to do with the gentle, compassionate presence that one human being provides to another. The effects of a nurturing non-verbal connection between two people can be as tangibly potent as any prescribed pharmaceutical, because it supports the nervous system towards increased self-regulation. As the nervous system achieves greater self-regulation, the body's own pharmacologic system is awakened and seemingly miraculous changes are allowed to occur. This is the unrecognized truth behind all touch therapies, including the medical disciplines of chiropractic, osteopathy and physical therapy.
This is a video clip of Sonia Rochel using a combination of water therapy and compassionate touch with newborn infants. I find this video an extraordinary demonstration of how compassionate touch reaches our entire being. We all on some level, still have that vulnerable little infant within our adult selves, longing for the delicate kinesthetic presence that Ms. Rochel is gifting these babies.
Everything that we currently know about emotional, psychological and even physiological resilience, points to the role that the felt- sense or kinesthetic self-image plays in mitigating distress and promoting well being. If you appreciate the emotional potency of this video, it may help you to understand the real reason that energy field healing is so therapeutic for those who receive benefit - and it has nothing to do with "energy".
In this clip, Antonio Damasio discusses the process by which the nervous system generates our sense of self. It's a contemporary confirmation of Moshe Feldenkrais work, including what Feldenkrais called the "self image".
Neil deGrasse Tyson on the importance of scientific literacy.
The next few clips are different examples of ordinary people having fairly similar experiences of an unseen but almost tangibly real force. It's the same phenomena that occurs in therapeutic touch, except applied to martial arts. The first video is a clip from Bill Moyer's 1993 Healing and the Mind series. However, as we see in subsequent videos, attempting to use this phenomena with unwilling or incapable participants, can potentially result in catastrophic failure.
I believe this seemingly mysterious "force" that tangibly affects some people but not others, is actually the result of our unconscious or non-cognitive submission to the other person. If we shift our perspective just a bit and appreciate the role of dominance and submission within the animal kingdom, the final video of domesticated dogs and cats offers a wonderfully lighthearted glimpse into how the same mechanism plays out between different species. So in my mind, the seemingly mysterious force of Qi is simply the result of our unconscious animal brain willfully submitting to another human animal. Of course, I could very well be wrong and I'm not opposed to the possibility that I am. But after investigating the phenomena for nearly 30 years, I have yet to learn of a better explanation.
These three videos feature the inspirational thoughts of Richard Feynman, Neil deGrasse Tyson and Carl Sagan on the philosophy of science.
These two videos feature Sam Harris discussing the value of mindfulness based meditation practices. He also articulates the difference between mindfulness and the religion with which it's commonly associated. Somatic Experiencing uses the principles of mindfulness to address and up-regulate autonomic dysfunction.
This video from Cal Tech describes how an injured moon jellyfish not only repairs itself, but actually reorganizes its cellular structure through functional activity. With each pulsatory undulation, the tissue of the jellyfish slowly re-organizes into a new, functionally viable form. Unlike most other organisms that utilize regeneration, these jellyfish don't attempt to regrow missing segments, but rather, utilize already existing intra-cellular forces to regain functional symmetry. Functional symmetry is in some ways, the basis of my approach to promoting integrated and congruent function. I believe that the jellyfish achieves this feat because of the homogeneous nature of its tissue. Similar remodeling processes also occur within animal connective tissue but on a significantly reduced scale, due to the heterogeneous nature of animal tissue.
This is an amazing example of how intra-cellular biomechanical forces govern self-organization and self-correction. It also articulates the evolutionary axiom that "function governs structure".
This video was produced in 1954 by William Seifriz, Professor of Botany at the University of Pennsylvania. I was already a massage therapist when I initially saw this film in the early 90's and it radically challenged all of my assumptions about biology, including the possibility that holistic, non-invasive interventions could effect profound physiological change. The images of a self-directed, self-regulating and self-correcting cellular substrate continues to influence my thinking about bodywork and mind-body medicine. There is an old osteopathic saying which I believe is attributed to William Sutherland that "Life is the highest known element in the universe". While I am a staunch believer in the molecular basis of life, this video shows just how mysteriously and magically profound "life" truly is.
In this TED talk, Jim Al-khalili discusses the field of quantum biology and the role that quantum mechanics plays in biological processes.
This is an ABC News Clip about the Greek island of Ikaria, where residents routinely live past 100 years of age without the kind of age related illnesses that plague most elderly Americans. The original New York Times article that inspired the news clip is on my links page.
This National Geographic Clip about the oldest military veteran in the US, details the life philosophy of Mr. Richard Overton. When the documentary was filmed in 2015, Mr. Overton was 109 years old. He's now 111 and still going strong. I would invite the viewer to consider the similarities between the lifestyles of Ikaria's citizens and Mr. Overton. Their behavioral characteristics and lifestyle choices are not inconsequential. They in fact seem to hold the secret to vitalized aging. As the Greek philosopher Heraclitus stated roughly 2000 years ago, "Character is Destiny".
Simon Sinek discusses some of the problems that millennials now bring to the workplace (many of which were unimaginable a decade ago). I admit to personally having a deep revulsion to this newly emerging Millennial mentality.
This video is a hilarious spoof on the self-destructive beliefs and negative self-talk that many of us engage in to varying degrees. I see it as an extension of the previous video with Simon Sinek.
In this TED talk by Jon Jandai, he describes a life philosophy that's shockingly different than the dream that most Americans have unconsciously and unknowingly bought into. While many of his suggestions are unrealistic, the utter simplicity of his perspective offers us pause to re-assess our own values and ambitions, and perhaps find ways to simplify our own life in ways we never previously considered.
David Abram is a cultural anthropologist, ecologist and author of the seminal book "Spell of the Sensuous", which I consider required reading for anyone who wants to deepen their kinesthetic bodily experience and relationship to the phenomenological world.
Jeronimo Munoz is a documentary filmmaker who's spent a number of years researching and compiling video footage on Ayahuasca (a psychadelic drug) and native south american spirituality. In this video, he discusses his personal experiences as a clueless foreigner trying to understand the spiritual practices and not-so-spiritual lifestyles of native peoples. He also examines the bizarre misappropriation of their religious practices by well-meaning but seriously misguided spiritual seekers. His story is a cautionary tale for anyone investigating or believes they are practicing a non-western philosophical tradition.
This video presents the concept of the Helical Heart and the evolutionary mechanism by which function or behavior governs and shapes anatomical structure. For centuries the anatomical structure of the human heart had remained a medical mystery until Paco Torrent Guasp, a family doctor in a small Spanish coastal village discovered the answer. Dr. Guasp toiled alone for over 20 years until he eventually unraveled the hearts anatomical mystery; that it is a single muscular band that folds over itself in a helical pattern. But Dr. Guasp had to spend another 20 years, fighting to see his work recognized.
Louis CK describes in his characteristically brilliant way, the value and importance of being present with ourselves. The incredibly simple choice to be present and mindful of ourselves and our emotional baggage, is the foundational premise of all psychotherapy and meditation practices. It's also the secret ingredient to resolving Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
The difference between resolving the kind of emotional pain that occurs from simply being alive, and the kind of emotional pain that results from catastrophic psychological trauma, is simply one of degrees.
An excerpt from the TV show Horace and Pete on the best strategy for resolving mental, emotional and physical pain/distress. It's another way of describing what happens when we use the parasympathetic (relaxation) nervous system to dampen and quiet the myriad of symptoms that arise from hyperactive sympathetic (fight-flight) nervous system activation. This is exceptionally true with trauma patterns.
Both of these videos from Big Think contributors discuss the role that attention and mindful awareness can play in addressing and changing neurological conditions like pain, anxiety and depression.
In these two videos, Michael Puett discusses the differences between eastern and western notions of "self" and how eastern meditation practices are becoming increasingly misinterpreted by American audiences as a way to validate our habituated patterns of self-absorbed narcissism. This has traditionally been the core distinction between eastern and western philosophy and their psychological models of personal growth and development, It is at its most basic level, the distinction between the "self" as a socially learned construct, and the "self" as an innate biological phenomenon.
If we seriously consider and explore the possibility that the '"self" is nothing more than a series of habituated patterns of behavior, then we can begin to appreciate that the socially constructed self that we tend to take for granted and assume to be "us", is essentially nothing more than a series of socially learned values and beliefs that we erroneously perceive to be immutable and real, when they aren't. More over, if the self is not an immutable and unchanging thing, but rather, a dynamically changing process, there is nothing to keep us from changing and improving our "self", other than our beliefs and desires to remain the same. Equally important, many of our current societal conflicts involving self-identity and fixations, like political identity, gender identity, social identity, etc... become irrelevant in the face of a biological self.
I'm currently working on a blog piece that discusses how anatomical and gravitational constraints allow us learn, grow and evolve as human beings. In the meantime, viewers may find these videos both interesting and thought provoking.
Peter Jones Acupuncture