Saturday, March 2, 2013

Super Sisters, Breathing as One, Riches in the Clinic, an Adventure Under Starry Skies, Gongfu & a Master's Gift

Greetings Friends!!!

Oh I am so so so so happy to be back in Zhengzhou, with my Chinese family, beloved Dr Zhao, his lovely wife, Ayi, his daughter, Nicole, son Zhao Peng, daughter-in-law Jumin, and their cute grandkids, Gaogao and Wenqing! :) And I so LOVE being back studying in his wonderful Chinese Medicine clinic with my dear “Sisters” Junling and Lijun! :) I’m also once again working in the “herbal department” and seeing and being with these wonderful smelling herbs is like once again re-uniting with old friends. My first couple of days back when Junling would tell me which herb to start measuring and how much for filling a specific prescription, each time, my heart would give out a squeal of glee in “re-uniting” with another herb! It may sound strange, as I don’t know how to use the herbs yet, BUT somehow I just love them. I have been helped many, many times in regaining my own health with these wonderful herbs, and in witnessing all the patients who come to this clinic with numerous kinds of illnesses and seeing their health return and them telling me with bright, twinkling eyes, their own recovery stories and the great love and respect they have for Dr. Zhao, I am so moved! My heart is so full and I have such a great love and appreciation for these plants and for Dr. Zhao and his mastery and ability to help so many!

Old Patients, Dear Friends
Today an older woman came to the clinic – probably in her late 60s. When I came to Dr. Zhao’s desk to give him his notes for this patient, they were both chatting enthusiastically with big smiles on their faces. Dr. Zhao looked up at me with his bright, happy eyes saying this woman was one of his long-time patients and a good friend. Well this woman (I wish I got her name!.. I’ll call her Zheng Taitai :)) was so vital, lively and full of bubbly joy. She was coming today more for a little “herbal tonic tune-up” and not for any specific illness. BUT, she eagerly shared with me her whole healing story and how she met Dr. Zhao.

The Toxic Lead is Gone! A Healthy Baby is Born
She actually met Dr. Zhao through her daughter. Her daughter, (I’ll call her Lanhua), was having trouble getting pregnant and heard of great success stories from other women with similar fertility issues who came to see Dr. Zhao. So, she came for treatment and also soon became pregnant :). Yet when she went to see her “Western” doctor for a check up, they found high levels of lead in her body. The doctors all told her that the levels far exceeded the “safe” level and would most likely endanger her baby. Yet they had no good method to help her body rid of this toxin. Well, Lanhua immediately thought of Dr. Zhao and came to see to see him again. He gave her some more herbs and in 3 days Lanhua went back to the western medical clinic for a check up. The doctors there couldn’t believe it! They couldn’t detect any toxic lead in her body! They kept asking her what she did, what herbs she took, and who did she see?!!! Now Zheng Taitai’s daughter has a very healthy 2-year-old son, and she and her whole family are deeply grateful for Dr. Zhao in helping all of this come to be. Zheng Taitai, a very proud and loving grandmother, reached into her purse and showed me indeed a very cute picture of a healthy 2 years young baby boy! :)

30+ Years of Chronic Urinary Bladder Infection: One Patient’s Story
Well Zheng Taitai then continued with her health story. She had a horrible chronic urinary bladder infection that started in her 20s. She lived with much discomfort for over 30 years, trying all types of treatments, but nothing seemed to help. After her daughter’s success with Dr. Zhao, she highly urged her Mom to go see him. Yet, at the time Zheng Taitai thought it would be too much of a hassle. She’d have to get some herbs, soak them, cook them herself, etc. Or, she thought, she could just go to the Chinese medicine hospital nearby, get checked and they would cook her herbs for her and give them to her in pre-wrapped packages, one serving of medicinal tea per package, and she could take it easily. (This is common for most Chinese Medical hospitals – they have big kitchens where they cook large quantities of herbs in large vats all at once.) So that’s what she did. BUT she ended up getting worse, was actually in the hospital for 10 days, took 2 more months of herbs and by the end felt she may actually die from this infection. It was just getting unbearable. She was in constant discomfort or pain and often felt she had to urinate every 20 mins or so. This made leaving home very inconvenient, not to mention painful, and sleep was minimal. It was at this point that Zheng Taitai agreed to go see Dr. Zhao.

7 Days to Wellness
Well, in feeling her pulses, Dr. Zhao knew the problem right away. He wrote up an herbal prescription for 7 days (7 packages of herbs) and said that should be enough. If for some reason she wasn’t all the way better, she could come back. “What?!” Zheng Taitai thought. “Here I’ve had this illness for 30+ years, am at the point where I feel I could die from it, and you’re telling me I could be all better in just 7 days?!” Zheng Taitai didn’t believe it BUT she went home and dutifully cooked her herbs. On the 1st day she took her morning herbs, and felt the same. But, at night she when she took her evening dose, she felt a radical change in her body. The infection pain was greatly reduced, and indeed within 7 days, she was all better! After over 30 years of suffering and illness she was well!

Healing Back Pain
Another patient who has been coming several days this week also shared with me her story. I call her Yan Ayi (Auntie Yan). She has pain in her waist that has radiated numbness, tingling and pain down her legs as well. She’s sought out several doctors, many of whom would work on her doing Chinese medical massage for 30 mins or more at a time. Yet, after 2 months, she didn’t feel any better. She heard of Dr. Zhao through some friends and came to see him. While each session with him is quick (no more than 5 - 10 mins), in just her first session she felt marked relief. She’s come about 4 times this week and the pain and numbness has already left her legs.

Listen to Each Word He Says….
In my time here at the clinic, Dr. Zhao is having me practice my medical massage techniques and Yan Ayi is one of the very generous and patient patients I’m getting to work with. :) She gives me feedback – basically how my treatments (greatly!!) differ from Dr. Zhao’s so I can learn more quickly. :) One day this week, after her treatment session, she put on her coat and motioned for me to sit next to her. She said in Chinese, “Kailun, you are very lucky to be here. Many people study for years and years and don’t study anything of real value” (“tamen xue bu dao shenme dongxi.”) “Dr. Zhao is a true Master. He is the ‘real deal’. Listen to each word he says.”

It Takes Gongfu
When Yan Ayi had arrived that day, I was in the midst of treating Dr. Zhao as a way for him to assess my skill and teach me, so she heard what he shared with me. His words are few; they are direct and simple; and they have much wisdom. Similar to Lijuan’s Buddhist teacher I mentioned in my last update, while Dr. Zhao’s words are few, and directions simple, to actually put them into practice is a huge challenge. Embodying his techniques takes a massive amount of patience, persistence, dedication, integrity, strength of mind, humbleness, humility, a willingness to listen deeply and try, try again, and a strong, steadfast and loving concentration. It also takes gongfu.

One day Dr. Zhao was having me treat him and desired for me to feel just how much “gongfu” it takes to press deep inside. Oh my goodness, I was sweating bullets! As you can see in my pictures, I always look so “puffy” as we’re all wearing many layers of sweaters, coats and jackets to stay warm! :) (Actually the one pic of me and Yan Ayi together I think I look pregnant, I’m so puffy! :)) So when working on Dr. Zhao, the combination of my feeling a bit nervous, the multitude of layers I was wearing, the heat lamp next to the table, AND the massive amount of strength and gongfu I was mustering up resulted in me sweating profusely! It took everything to muster up enough gongfu to get the qi into my hands and on/into his back. From when I first met Dr. Zhao I noticed the prominent callouses on his index finger knuckles and have noticed them on Junling and Lijun too. After this session with Dr. Zhao I am proud to say I understand where these come from. And I also have my own now beautifully forming on my hands!

Super Sisters! An Abundant Blessing
I also have so much support from my Sisters, Lijun and Junling in my learning with Dr. Zhao. One day after a not-so-successful session in treating Dr. Zhao, if I had just listened to and believed my own internal thoughts, self-criticisms, I may have believed my thoughts of “I’ll never get it right” and not continued studying. But I know those thoughts are just thoughts, and/or my ego, and I remember self-forgiveness, the love and dedication in my heart, my deep yearning to learn and my gratitude for Dr. Zhao and for being here. Also, as I mentioned, my sisters are so supportive and loving and are continually “voting my victory!” They are so amazing.

“Kailun, shi zheyang…” ~ “Kailun, it’s like this…”
One day when feeling a bit frustrated, Junling and Lijun had heard the words Dr. Zhao shared with me. When I came back into the herbal room they surrounded me and whispered in my ears, and started pressing on my arms and back, saying, “Kailun, shi zheyang, shi zheyang..” “Karen, it’s like this…you press like this…” they were helping me understand and feel and embody this masterful technique. Lijun also whispered, “Kailun, ni yao ting Da Bai de mei yi juhua. Yao jizhu. Jide. Man man xiang. Man man tihui.  Meitian lianxi…” “Kailun, you must listen to Dr. Zhao and really listen to his each and every word. You must remember them, hold them in your heart. You will then slowly, slowly understand. You must practice every day.” Junling then passed me a note, writing some of Dr. Zhao’s wise words he had just shared with me, such as “心到手到点到 xindao, shou dao, dian dao” “Your heart, your hands, and the point on the patient’s body are all …the same place.” Oh they are soooo sweet!!! And so much my sisters!

Breathe as One
They also reminded me of Dr. Zhao’s words that when treating a client, you must breathe together as one. Many of his clients also share with me that when he treats them, it’s as if his hands go into their body. His touch is deep, strong and gentle all at the same time. It’s gentle in that even though his pressure may be strong and sometimes painful, his hands convey a strength, knowingness, tenderness that the body and relax and receive from, despite pain.

Oh I soooo LOVE being here with Dr. Zhao and his beautiful family and being in his clinic. I am so amazed and in awe that I have this opportunity. I love all of it!!

A Master Who Embodies His Craft ~ How to Pass On His Gift?
And each day I am continually amazed at the profound Mastery Dr. Zhao embodies. He has cured and can cure so many, many kinds of illness, diseases and conditions. He’s seen so much; he is not afraid of what patients may bring. He knows his craft and has a most sincere, honest and beautiful heart and motive to be of service and help whomever he can. One of Dr. Zhao’s challenges is how to share with the world his profound mastery and knowledge? With whom and how can he pass on what he embodies and possesses to the next generation? We invested quite a bit of time today talking about the state of Chinese medicine in China. Even though many young students are still studying this medicine, only a very few are able to go on and practice as doctors after graduating. Only a relative few get the handful of jobs available in Chinese Medical hospitals and most of the others go into some sort of business, maybe selling herbs or a TCM medical supplies store or pharmacy. I didn’t understand all the details, but some that the government doesn’t give licenses for many of these younger graduates to start their own clinics. The government has been and is very good to Dr. Zhao and recognizes his great contribution to many. Yet many in the younger generation don’t have much of a chance to develop and grow as doctors with full mastery and understanding and clinical experience of this vast philosophy and medical system.

Dr. Zhao & His Grandfather ~ Young Disciple & Master
In America, while students are free to start their own clinics, there are few true masters for them to study with. Dr. Zhao reached into his desk drawers today and pulled out some old pics of him and his grandfather, a very famous Chinese medicine doctor with whom Dr. Zhao studied. He has such great respect for him (as he also does for his amazing mother who had 7 kids!!! I’ve included 2 pics of her too – there’s one of her in the wheelchair with her older brother and younger sister next to her :) and one with Dr. Zhao and Ayi standing behind her in Dr. Zhao’s old clinic). And just as his grandfather was able to pass on his knowledge to his grandson, Dr. Zhao, Dr. Zhao also so deeply desires to pass on his wisdom and treasures so that the depth, and treasure of Chinese medicine continues to live on. If any of you reading my update have I ideas for Dr. Zhao, and/or how I can help or others can help him fulfill this desire for the good of our planet, please let me know! I’m open to thinking way outside the “box” :)!

Richness of Life in the Clinic!
I love our time in the clinic! When it’s full of patients, sometimes I get to treat them with an acupressure treatment, sometimes I get to interview them on their cases, and other times I’m in the “herbal clinic” with my dear sisters measuring and wrapping up packages of herbs (I must say I am super pleased that my hands have thankfully remembered how to use the Chinese hand scale for measuring herbs AND how to wrap herbal packages. YAY! For those of you who read my blog 3 years ago in my first visit with Dr. Zhao, I had a HUGE learning curve in gaining some level of mastery in these 2 tasks – filled with many mistakes and many rather embarrassing moments!! :) While both tasks look super easy…they are not. There is an “art” to measuring and wrapping herbs! (this is a link to that previous blog article :))

When we have some lulls or quiet periods in the clinic with no patients, I get to review the herbs, sometimes having my sisters test me…where they call out herb names and then I find the ones they say amongst the little drawers labeled in Chinese characters with over 400 herbs. Other times, I SLOWLY read one of the massage books Dr. Zhao has given me to read. I LOVE doing this as I’m constantly learning new words…BUT I read so slowly….as I’m, well, …constantly learning new words. One morning it took me a whole half hour to read 1 page! I was proud of myself….but then also a bit overwhelmed with how much I wanted to read and learn in this 200+ page book….and just how slowly I was reading. :( Well then Junling came behind me and peered over my shoulder. She started reading the text out loud and then demonstrated the massage techniques on my shoulders and neck. Oh, this was much faster and more enjoyable! :) And in 5 minutes we got through 4 pages of instructions (versus my previous rate which would’ve taken 2.5 hours!)

Dr. Zhao is also continuously studying, reading current essays and research in Chinese medicine, as well as reviewing his old classic books, books full of hundreds of herbal soup recipes he has memorized since a young man of 20, practicing his calligraphy, writing essays himself, and/or reciting the many gejues (poems with all the acupressure points) for the various meridians. Sometimes, Dr. Zhao also “plays,” which is so fun to see.

Playtime?...A Beautiful Amber Treasure!
For example, last weekend Dr. Zhao went to a local market – kind of like flea markets in the States. Similar to our flea markets, some things there are not worth much, and sometimes you can find treasures! Well…Dr. Zhao loves old things and loves to find treasures (he also loves watches I’ve found out :)). Last Sunday he found a bracelet made of high quality, ancient amber. Yet the fellow selling it, didn’t recognize it for the treasure it was. It was dusty and dirty looking. But it caught Dr. Zhao’s eyes. He picked it up, was able to sneak a lighter to the beads to smell if it was real or fake…and lo and behold it was real hupo (amber)! Dr. Zhao bought it for a very good price and this whole week, in some of our “free” time, he’s been polishing this bracelet, wrapping it in special cloth, and then taking it out now and again, examining it with his magnifying glasses, admiring it, and often coming into the “herbal room” with a big smile on his face, calling Junling, Lijun and me over to show us new tiny characters he’s discovered carved into this bracelet, or to have us admire with him its brightness, growing shine, luminosity and brilliant color of his new treasure.  It so fun to see him so enthralled with this bracelet!

Sparkling & Crystal Clear
One morning after he had steamed the bracelet some the night before, he proudly walked into the herb room holding the bracelet up to the light. “Kailun, lai lai.” “Kailun, come, come,” he said calling me over to the window. Wow! Indeed it shimmered most beautifully and all the beads (which are the 12 animals on the Chinese zodiac) were crystal clear and beautiful. He said, “Kailun ni zhidao ‘Jing Ying Ti Tou’ shi shenme yise ma? Zheshi yige Zhongguo de chengyu.” (Kailun, do you know what “jing ying ti tou” means? It’s a Chinese idiom.” It means “sparkling and crystal clear, or glittering and translucent.” :) Then laughing, Dr. Zhao said, “Kailun ruguo ni liu zai Zhongguo, wo ye keyi jiao ni hen duo Zhongguo de chengyu.” “Kailun, if you stay here in China, I could also teach you many Chinese idioms!” Later that same day, Dr. Zhao also had one of his dear friends, the artist I wrote about in my last time here, come to see and check out his new treasure :) (this is the artist who painted a most beautiful painting for me last time I came). I have a picture of the bracelet (Dr. Zhao wanted me to send it to you all – he’s holding it up into the light :)) and one of him and his artist friend admiring this treasure. :)

Depths of Compassion ~ An Adventure into the Starry Skies of a Small Remote Village
Dr. Zhao is so amazing! He is so generous! I feel my love and deep respect for him and the great service he humbly provides grows each day. Yesterday was no exception. When nearing the end of our full, busy day at the clinic on Saturday, he told me he was going to take me with him to see a client. We would leave at 4:30 p.m. and get back to Zhengzhou after 10:30 p.m. He explained that this patient is an 83 y/o woman he’s been treating since November for esophagus cancer. As she is unable to travel and lives way out in the countryside in a small village (a 2.5+ hour drive one way), Dr. Zhao has been treating her through phone consultations and then writing up herbal prescriptions. Her youngest son lives in Zhengzhou and he is the one who comes to Dr. Zhao’s clinic to pick up his mother’s prescriptions. Well today, Dr. Zhao wanted to go see her in person and her youngest son was our guide to get us there.

Okay, so just a side note…I found it amusing as …here I am, almost 30 years younger than Dr. Zhao, yet I’m the one who was feeling sleepy and took a nap as we hopped in the car after a full day in the clinic, and Dr. Zhao was smiling, bubbly, full of energy and explaining with a big grin how he loves to drive his “cars.” :-) (I’ve told him it’s “car” for a single car but he still often proudly says “wo xihuan wo de cars!” (I like my cars! :))

So, we drove and drove, passing over the great Huang He (Yellow River) and continued out into the countryside as the sun went down. After stopping several times and asking people on the side of the road for further directions/clarifications, we finally turned down a tiny road in a little winter village as the bright stars twinkled brightly above us. Oh this was so amazing to be in this beautiful, humble village!

Meet Sweet Mama, Dr. Zhao’s 84 y/o Patient ~ & a Beautiful Family
As soon as we arrived and stepped out into the dark, crisp, cold air, a whole family of villagers came out to greet us and led us into their home. They took us right into the dear Mother’s room – the warmest room in their home, as it is the only one with a wood stove. She sat up and was so happy to see Dr. Zhao. What a sweet woman! And Dr. Zhao was so tender and compassionate with her! Dr. Zhao had explained to me that village life is hard, and the fact that she is 83, has such a serious illness AND still has such a strong will to live is deeply inspiring. He felt this in her and immediately has done his best to help her from the moment he heard of her case. Also, it was amazing to see how loved she is! Her whole family, all her kids, all of whom are getting older themselves, with their own health issues, still so love her and tenderly take care of her. (I was just able to get one pic of Dr. Zhao while working with her.)

Esophagus Cancer: a Case Study
On our way to the village, this woman’s son also explained to me that when his Mother first got herbs from Dr. Zhao, she was in the hospital but was not able to eat or drink. It was very hard to keep anything down. Also, when she did eat a bit, she wasn’t able to have a bowel movement. She was skin and bones and in feeling her skin, there was no muscle underneath. Now she’s taken a total of 25 bags of herbs (one bag gives one day’s worth of herbal tea). After just the first 5 bags, her youngest son explained to me, “Ta hen kuai jiu keyi chi fan. Ta keyi chi yi da wan babao zhou. Shuijiao ye keyi. Erqie, yiqian, meiyou jirou. Ta chi yao zhihou, ta de pifu jiu you rou le. Da, xiao bian ye bian de zhengchang.” “She was soon about to eat. She can now eat a big bowl of “8 treasures” rice porridge. She can also sleep well again, and now she’s starting to gain muscle under her skin again. And her urination and bowel movements are normal again.” This is amazing as not many people recover from such advanced esophagus cancer.

Oh this youngest son’s whole family was so lovely!! As soon as Dr. Zhao walked in and sat next the sweet Mother on her bed to feel her pulses and do his diagnosis check-up, one of the youngest son’s older sisters took my hand and had me sit down next to her by the wood stove. Her daughter was there too and smiled saying, “My mom really likes you!” :) This older sister was so sweet! We kept holding hands as we whispered back and forth a bit while doctor Zhao was working. She even asked me if I could stay with them for a couple days!!

A Family Check-Up
Well because it’s such a rare occasion to have a doctor in such a remote village, after Dr. Zhao was finished working with this dear Mother, we went out into the main (COLD) room (as it’s open to the outdoors). There the rest of the family one-by-one also lined up to have a check-up with Dr. Zhao :)…while the youngest son held a flashlight enabling Dr. Zhao to write his notes in his little patient notebook and also to see each person’s tongue clearly (an important part of Chinese medicine diagnosis). :) Oh Dr. Zhao used his same gentle, wise and compassionate way with each member of the family. I feel so deeply blessed to be able to experience this with him. Even though I don’t have a degree in medicine, I receive so much from Dr. Zhao and my experiences with him….and it’s through my writing and sharing that I also desire to share these great gifts I’m receiving with you as well.

It was kind of funny too, because part of Chinese medical diagnosis is asking questions like…how is your sleep, your appetite, etc. And also questions about one’s urination, bowel movements, whether they’re regular, prone to diarrhea or constipation, etc. Well, as we were all huddled together in one room, there of course was no privacy. When one of the youngest son’s older sisters was with Dr. Zhao, he asked about her sleep and she explained how she doesn’t sleep well at all. Then when he asked about her appetite, she said “oh…yes, I can eat,” followed by a little giggle. And then the whole family of other brothers and sisters also laughed and chimed in that she eats a lot!...and likes to drink a bit too!...followed by more giggles and laughs. Oh even though I just met them, I can feel they are such a wonderful family!

Later it was the older brother’s turn. He lately has become hard of hearing and can only hear if people speak quite loudly to him. So the whole time Dr. Zhao was doing his diagnosis, he’d ask this older brother a question, and then the youngest brother would repeat it in a really loud voice so his older brother could hear, and then the older brother would respond in a similarly loud voice. Well when it came time to the bowel movement questions, I found it hilarious as Dr. Zhao asked his normal question of “Do you have diarrhea?” And then the youngest son repeated in a SUPER loud voice, “Do you have diarrhea?” and the older brother then loudly proclaims back, “No I don’t have diarrhea.” And so on :)!

Okay, this update is super long! And I still haven’t told you about my yoga lessons/sessions in the “herbal department” of our clinic, and of the times Junling and Lijun come over to my room at lunch break and help me practice my acupressure/massage techniques and our upcoming dance lessons. Oh they’re so great!

I so love this whole wonderful family of mine here in Zhengzhou!! Ayi continues to make me such delicious lunches everyday and it’s so good to be able to talk with Jumin more and to also play with Dr. Zhao’s grandkids, Wenqing and Gaogao. Here's some pics of Ayi in the kitchen making oh-so-yummy food for lunch :), a pic of one of our lunches and a few pics of Dr. Zhao and Ayi's wonderful grandkids, Gaogao and Wenqing :).

Thank you, thank you, thank you again for those of you who have read my whole update and made it through another marathon of sharing. I love this opportunity to share with you!!

So much Goodness and Love to you all!



  1. Dear Karen,
    I hear and feel the joy and the healing in your stories.

    Keep up the good work. The world needs more healers, full of heart like you.

    Be well,

  2. beautiful beautiful! So inspiring, and thank you for sharing!