Learning and accepting Chronic Illness…

By |2018-02-15T22:00:53+00:00February 15th, 2018|Uncategorized|

Learning to Be Sick  {plus a prayer about able-ism}
by Rabbi Elliot Kukla
I became disabled overnight in a car accident. The car accident was a dream, but the disability was real.
I dreamed I was driving through the ravaged streets of Oakland at the end of the world. I turned the corner and careened inescapably into a white chemical blaze. I woke with a start, the white flash still burning behind my eyes, the worst headache of my life piercing my left temporal lobe.  I remembered my mother having a brain aneurysm years before, and knew the “worst headache of my life” was not to be ignored. My wife and I hurried to the hospital, expecting life to change forever. Once at the ER, things moved quickly: CT scans were ordered, crystal clear spinal fluid was drawn from my back. Eight hours later, I was told I was perfectly healthy.
What they meant, but wouldn’t say, was that they didn’t know what was wrong. Over the next weeks and months, it became obvious that I was far from well. The terrible headaches continued, I developed burning nerve pain all over my torso that couldn’t be relieved by any nerve pain remedies, I was wrapped in a thick brain fog, I sprouted constant mouth ulcers, I was crushed with exhaustion. I would open my mouth and be unable to speak. I could get lost in my own house between bedroom and bathroom, and forget my wife’s name.  I started having seizures.
By then, I had discovered that I was no longer trusted by my doctors about my own body or experiences.  I reported odd, terrifying, and sudden physical changes; they recommended Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and Weight Watchers.  I felt exiled from the world of the well, isolated by thick walls of suspicion.  I’m used to feeling like an outsider; I’m the first openly transgender rabbi ordained by a mainstream movement (Reform Judaism). I am used to being rejected and told I should not exist. But nothing prepared me for the outsider status of being chronically ill. Think about that for a moment: approximately 0.6% of US adults identify as transgender, just under 0.2% of the world population is Jewish, and 100% of us will get sick, but it is being chronically sick that makes me feel like an outsider. That’s how much our society fears and rejects the core human experience of being ill, of having a body that gets sick, that ages, that is not controllable.
I went from doctor to doctor looking for answers, but overnight, I had gone from being a trusted rabbi and chaplain (who myself works with seriously ill and dying people on hospital medical teams) to a “hysterical” chronically ill person.  Though I had seen it happen to my clients, I now understood firsthand that being disbelieved is nearly universal for people with chronic illnesses, especially ones that are largely invisible and/or hard to diagnose. I had believed that as a healthcare professional, equipped with skills and advocates to navigate the system, I would be treated differently. I soon learned how hubristic that was.
Eventually, due to the tireless advocacy of my wife, I was diagnosed with Central Nervous System Lupus (an autoimmune disease which attacks the brain and central nervous system), as well as fibromyalgia, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and complex migraines. My Lupus diagnosis would later be taken away and then given back countless times as suited the needs of health insurance and disability insurance companies in order to sort and manage me and decide how much care I was entitled to (ref.: Ortiz Law Firm). The needs  of my body were virtually irrelevant in this process as my diagnosis become a monetized affair where I had to jump through increasingly difficult hoops to “prove” it.
Like most of us, I had been raised to see Illness as something temporary:  a stopover on the way to recovery or to death, not a place to live. But weeks, months, and then years passed, and I did not get better. My doctors, and even some friends and family, suggested that I could get better if only I tried harder, relaxed more deeply, thought more positively. I became a lightning rod for others’ fears of disability, dependence, and fragility. In a political moment where healthcare is treated as a luxury, and hurricane victims are blamed for their own disasters, an ethic of personal responsibility reigns. But sometimes, sick people just stay sick.  And there’s no meditation, medication, positive outlook, exercise, or smoothie that can magically fix it. Click to visit the site that offers effective treatment.
Eventually, I stopped hoping to be well, or even pretending that I lived in that future-heavy land of hope anymore. I stopped trying to “overcome” my body, and started living a present tense life in chronic illness. As the pace of my life slowed, I could appreciate sensual pleasures in a new and heightened way: sunlight out my bedroom window, my dog’s velvety fur, a cool breeze in my garden, richly colored flowers. On days when my brain was too fogged to do anything, I let myself float in and out of a rich, infinitely layered dream world.
With great difficulty, I learned how to accept care.  A child of neglectful and absent parents, I had been fiercely independent for most of my life; now, as fatigue gripped my body, I needed help preparing food, showering, doing laundry, managing my medications. This demanded a difficult, profoundly spiritual vulnerability.  I realized that if I were truly to see myself as equal to my seriously ill clients, and not performing a kind of “charity” in my work, I had to come to terms with the necessity of interdependence.
We are born needing care and die needing care, and I am no exception.  At brief moments in the middle of life, we hold the illusion of independence, but we are always driving on roads we did not build, eating foods we did not pick or raise. Allowing the illusion of my own independence to drop away unmasked a fundamental truth of being human.
Like many people, I had once measured my worth by my capacity to produce things and experiences: to be productive at work, share responsibilities at home, “show up” equally in my friendships, and rack up achievements. Being sick has been a long, slow detox from capitalist culture and its mandate that we never rest. Slowly, I found a deeper value in relationship beyond reciprocity: an unconditional love and care based in justice, and a belief that all humans deserve relationship, regardless of whether we can offer anything measurable back. In these discoveries, I’ve been led by other sick and disabled people, whose value had always been apparent to me.  Amidst the brilliant diversity of power wheelchairs, service dogs, canes, and ice packs it’s easy to see that we matter just as we are.
Eventually, my body did change. I am now able to stay awake longer, and my pain has receded to a dull throb. I can leave the house more; I can visit my clients and mentor my hospice volunteers, for which I am grateful. But I don’t see myself as cured, nor do I imagine a cure will come. This is merely another chapter in the life of my body. If I’m lucky enough to get old, my body will change again. Due to my illnesses and family history, I’m more likely to develop dementia. As I age, my body and mind will surely become more disabled. I will lose cognitive and sensory capacities. My skin and muscles will sag and disintegrate. I will depend more and more on other people. I will not be able to control my bowels or my surroundings as tightly. I will lose teeth, hair, and precious memories. This is not a tragedy. This is what it means to be human. 
Mi Sh’berach for Ableism
Rabbi Elliot Kukla

Napping … Is it Good for You?

By |2017-06-19T12:29:19+00:00June 19th, 2017|Uncategorized|

Giving in to a daytime catnap might have been frowned upon in the past, but now new research has put to bed previous nap naysayers. Studies show that a little daytime shuteye can actually provide health benefits.

According to a past issue of the Harvard Health Letter, catching a daytime nap is a good way to catch up on the sleep you lose at night, sleep that may become more difficult as you age due to natural age-related decline in the quality of your nighttime sleep.

Getting Over the Mid-afternoon Slump
A case of the drowsies may seem to hit the same time every afternoon and does so for several reasons. The first is a biological element. Your biological clock, located in the hypothalamus of your brain, is regulated and impacted by many physiological processes such as body temperature, blood pressure and secretion of digestive juices.
The circadian rhythm, also referred to as the “internal body clock,” is naturally set to induce feelings of wakefulness during the day that gradually slow down and turn to sleepiness at nighttime. Oftentimes, it’s common to experience feelings of mid-afternoon sleepiness as a part of the circadian schedule.
Waking hours is the other factor to daytime sleepiness. For example, if you work a night shift and find yourself having difficulty falling asleep the next night it could be due to a disruption in your circadian rhythm, resulting from your 16 hours of wakefulness beginning earlier and ending earlier — causing you to feel drowsy in the late afternoon or early evening hours.

Power Naps at Work can Increase Productivity
Just taking a six-minute nap can help with information retention and memorization. In addition, research has shown that a nap improves:

  • Learning
  • Memory
  • Creative thinking
  • Problem solving

According to Inc.com, companies like Apple, Google, Uber, Huffington Post and Zappos have jumped on the nap “wagon” and consider napping a strategic company move, even going so far as to designate nap rooms for their employees.
Another recent study showed the benefits a planned 40-minute nap had on improving the alertness and performance of air traffic controllers working the night shift. Currently, research is in the works to improve the sleep policies of fire departments as well.
Some experts, however, still continue to believe that daytime naps may steal hours from nighttime sleep. They recommend if you do take daytime naps to take them in the mid-afternoon and limit them to 30 minutes.
Other Countries Embrace Benefits of Daytime Siestas
Taking a nap after lunch in other countries like Portugal, Spain, many Latin American countries, the Philippines, China, Italy, India, the Middle East and North Africa is commonplace and encouraged.  Some countries like Argentina take naps very seriously and have a reserved time of the day for siestas that is considered a sacred time. And it’s not unusual for an employee in Japan to take a nap in a “napping room” or at their “desk pillow” during office hours.
Another study conducted in Greece showed the more people napped, the lower their risk of dying from heart disease and stroke.
Specific study findings touting the benefits of napping include:

  • People who napped regularly during the day for at least 30 minutes three times a week or more had a 37 percent lower risk of coronary mortality than those who did not sleep during the day
  • The strongest link between lower coronary mortality and napping during the day was found among working men
  • Even people who napped occasionally had a 12 percent lower coronary mortality compared to those people who did not nap at all

Top Napping Tips
If you are looking for the best way to take a nap, here are some tips to get the most out of your daytime naps:

  • Set a timer or alarm for 30 minutes: This is the ideal amount of time for your body to reenergize and relax. A nap any longer than 30 minutes will put you in a deeper sleep cycle, causing feelings of grogginess and making it harder to focus and concentrate once you awake.
  • Create an ideal nap area: Be sure that the room is dark, free of distractions and at a comfortable temperature. You can use eye shades and relaxing music to help you fall asleep faster.
  • Schedule your nap time: Don’t wait until you’re ready to topple over from exhaustion, or worse get behind the wheel to drive home, before you take your nap. If you start taking naps at the same time and for the same duration each day, your body will have an easier time adjusting.
  • Drop any guilty feelings: Instead of thinking of yourself as lazy, think of how much more productive and alert you will be after napping.

American Sleep Habits
The reasons for sleep deprivation among Americans run the gamut from kids, work, stress, and even addictions to the Internet. According to a survey conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 1 out of 10 people admitted to not getting enough sleep in the past 30 days, and the part of the country feeling the most sleep-deprived are those on the east coast.
Other findings from the survey clarified who is and who isn’t getting enough sleep:

  • Hispanics slept better than whites or blacks
  • Men slept better than women
  • A whopping 25.8 percent of people who were unable to work said they had not gotten a single night’s good rest in the previous month
  • 13.9 percent of unemployed people also said they hadn’t gotten a good night’s sleep in the past month, compared to 9.9 percent of people with jobs and 11.1 percent of students and homemakers

And by state the Westerners are sleeping more soundly than those on the East Coast:

  • 19.3 percent of West Virginians ranked the highest in sleep deprivation reporting no nights of adequate rest for the past 30 days

They were followed by:

  • Tennessee: 14.8 percent have been sleep deprived for the past month
  • Kentucky: 14.4 percent
  • Oklahoma: 14.3 percent
  • Californians: 8 percent
  • North Dakotans: 7.4 percent
  • 12 of the 14 best-sleeping states were west of the Mississippi

Authors of the survey attribute the struggles in the Southeastern U.S. with getting a good night’s sleep to having a higher rate of obesity, hypertension and other chronic diseases.
© Health Realizations Institute

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10 Habits of Being a Happy Mother

By |2017-05-10T06:00:29+00:00May 10th, 2017|General Happenings, Uncategorized|

I will admit it. I am a self-help junkie. I love reading personal development books and now that I am a mother that still hasn’t changed. I just finished reading the book, The 10 Habits of Healthy Mothers, by Meg Meeker. It served as a reminder of how to live a rich, peaceful and simple life. The habits I have heard before, it is even more important that I remind myself to stay focused on what is important in life and to live in the present moment.
Here are the 10 habits:
1) Understand your value as a Mother and/or an individual
2) Maintain a strong support system
3) Value and practice faith
4) Say no to competition
5) Create a healthy relationship with money
6) Make time for solitude
7) Give and get love in healthy ways
8) Live more simply
9) Let go of fear
10) Cultivate hope
Remember life is too short to waste it on worrying, gossip and stressing out. One of the most important things that I have learned in my lifetime is to not compare myself to others. This is extremely hard! Especially in a culture that is constantly making comparisons and marketing that makes us feel inadequate with what we have. Cultivate the feeling of gratitude each day of your life, and be grateful for all the little things we experience and have on a daily basis.
Happy Mother’s Day!

The Secret to Successful Athletic Training – Stretching and Sports Massage

By |2017-04-17T12:31:40+00:00April 17th, 2017|Uncategorized|

Movement-1000Whether you are a professional or amateur athlete, or simply a weekend warrior – when you train (i.e. run, bike, lift weights, swim, etc) you are putting stress on your muscles in order to build strength, stamina, and endurance for your particular sport. This process of building up and breaking down muscles causes them to become tight and short, which restricts circulation and creates muscular imbalances. All of these conditions are a normal byproduct of training but all need to be nurtured in order to enhance performance and prevent injury.
Cause and Effect of Conditions

  • Tight muscles – Muscles move our bones by the connective tissue (fascia) that envelopes and connects them to our bones via tendons. Chronically tight muscles can put excessive stress on our tendons which can lead to tendinitis, and in some cases tendon pulls and tears which can put an athlete out for weeks if not months.
  • Restricted circulation – Muscles are made of microscopic fibers surrounded by tiny capillaries that nourish the muscle with blood. If they become too tight the blood flow is greatly decreased, cutting off the supply of oxygen and glycogen to the muscle. Without proper fuel, the muscle(s) simply can’t perform properly.
  • Muscular imbalances – There are two types of muscles – slow twitch (postural) and fast twitch (movers). The former metabolizes fuel for long sustained efforts, and when stressed tends to shorten. Fast twitch muscle fibers utilize higher amounts of oxygen than slow twitch fibers to produce quick bursts of energy and tend to weaken under stress. This juxtaposition causes an imbalance in opposing muscle groups and an inefficiency in the way the body works. It is very important to restore balance by lengthening short/tight muscles and re-energize weakened ones in order to maximize their capacity.

Simple Solution

Massage treatment

Massage treatment

In order to compete and/or perform at your very best, all athletes (from amateurs to professionals) have to address the issues above. The good news is there are two incredibly simple solutions – stretching and massage.
Stretching is an often overlooked, yet essential component of training, especially in new and amateur athletes. They tend to be focused on the “no pain, no gain” aspect and want to push their bodies to the limit. This IS part of training and the other part is recovering and taking care of themselves, which includes spending almost as much time stretching and lengthening your muscles as you do strengthening them.
Sports massage should also play an important role in all training plans. You invest hours of time and energy, and copious amounts of money on gear, coaches, travel and more. Massage is part of this investment. It is like having an insurance policy that your body will operate well so you can have an optimal performance. Some people think of massage as a very passive and pampering type of activity. Sports massage is far from this stereotype for the client is actively participating in the session.  During a sport massage session the client is ask to engage specific muscle groups  to activate our bodies natural reflexes and responses to  achieve  a deeper therapeutic stretch.    Also movement and resistant by the client is used to enhance the effectiveness of traditional massage strokes to achieve an optimal result.
Both stretching and massage help bring your muscles back to a state where they can operate most efficiently from a physiological and structural standpoint. When they are lengthened and pliable, blood flows freely and they are able to work effectively and efficiently.
And most importantly, your massage can enhance your body awareness, alerting you to potential problem areas, before they turn into real issues that would affect your ability to train and compete.
Don’t forget about the diaphragm
The diaphragm is the muscle that we engaged every time we breathe and like any other muscle it is susceptible to dysfunction.  If it is not operating efficiently, your body is running on low octane rather than high octane fuel. Getting regular massage work on this area can enhance your lung capacity!
For more information about recovering from an injury with a massage call The Wellness Center Today! 303-357-9355

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Honoring Fathers and the Divine Masculine

By |2016-06-01T12:31:55+00:00June 1st, 2016|Uncategorized|

This month we take time to honor fathers and the divine masculine. The divine masculine is spiritually self-aware and secure, both tender and wise, and is outwardly creative. The divine masculine embodies the qualities of courage, healthy assertion, focused will, structure, strength, balance, and perseverance. These qualities play a key role in raising our future generations. Fathers are our rock when we are feeling shaky, they can be our voice of reason, and they are always looking after us.
My dad always encouraged me to get educated and get a good job before I settled down. This gave me the confidence to know that I didn’t have to marry the first man I met and that I could be my own person. It taught me to become independent and self-reliant, which then led me to live in Nepal for 2 years as a Peace Corps volunteer, then to go into business for myself. I am forever grateful for my loving and supportive father. Today, I enjoy watching him with my daughter and feel grateful that he will provide guidance to her as she grows up.
Of course, I am grateful to my husband Ross for always making me laugh, changing poopy diapers, reading aloud to me, letting me cheat at scrabble, and always loving and supporting me. To all the fathers, we celebrate you and your divine masculine this month and every month.
In Health,


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Feeling Nostalgic

By |2016-01-25T17:35:40+00:00January 25th, 2016|General Happenings, Uncategorized|

This month’s theme is on inspiration.
As I was rScan0003eflecting upon this topic, I realized that I find most of my inspiration from other people.  People inspire me in so many ways. Scan0005
I have had these images up on my fridge and they remind me that life is not that easy in other parts of the world.  Over 15 years ago I served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Nepal.  The experience literally changed me as a person.  I don’t think I would have gone into the wellness/healing profession if it wasn’t for my time in Nepal.  It opened up my eyes to a whole new world of how people live.  I had traveled out of the USA before, but there is something inherently different when you live in a foreign country for more than a year.  You are no longer a passing traveler, but part of the culture and that inevitably changes people.
I would highly recommend for anyone to join the Peace Corps… my hope is that my daughter considers it when she is a young adult.
Many people in Nepal inspired me.  The young girl’s that are no more than 5 years old working to gather water, clean dishes and cook food.  It is tremendous and heart breaking at the same time.  It reminds me every day to count my blessings that I was born into the family and situation I was born into, and to not take it for granted.
What inspires me?  Every person that gets up and out of bed every day even when it is hard, that is inspiring.  Living a fulfilling life is not easy, and requires constant attention and inner work.  For anyone to feel joy and inspiration, they must confront their demons and overcome their insecurities.  It is necessary.
Take a moment and reflect on those people in your life that you find inspiring… here are some of mine.

  • My mother inspires me with her courage to continue to live a full life without my father.
  • My husband inspires me with his discipline and willingness to try new things.
  • My daughter inspires me with her laugh and unconditional love. .
  • My practitioners inspire me with their commitment to healing and their clients.
  • My staff inspires me with their hard work and interest in helping others.
  • My clients for making the commitment to their health and to look at things in a new way.

Thank you for inspiring me!
In Health,Scan0006
A picture of me in Nepal ~ 1998!

Random Acts of Kindness Recap

By |2014-02-28T21:51:27+00:00February 28th, 2014|Uncategorized|

We couldn’t be more happy with the positivity the month of February and our Random Acts of Kindness program brought to the Wellness Center and our entire community. Below are just a few of the many kind things clients did for others.
“Brought a family who has been unbelievably down on their luck into our home, made them a wonderful meal and simply had them relax, rest and receive.”
“Put money on the windshield of a family.”
“Gave a little extra $ to my amazing massage therapist!”
“Donated to 11 yr old boy with asthma who will be climbing the Republic Plaza on 2/23 as a fundraiser for the American Lung Association.”
“Bought a coffee/roll for someone.”
“Contributed to your RAK jar.”
“Bought a sandwich, juice and fruit for homeless man at King Soopers.”
“Donated some time and scanned photos for a memorial service.”
“Gave money to my son’s speech therapist.”
Took my boy to do something fun.”
“I treated the new director at my daughter’s preschool to a fancy coffee.”
“Mailed letters to 5 people I don’t communicate with often telling them how they’ve positively made an impact in my life.”

Cupping – Ancient Healing Tools Are Making a Comeback!

By |2014-01-14T15:10:54+00:00January 14th, 2014|Uncategorized|

Cupping Pic
Cupping, and ancient healing tool that has been traced back to ancient Egypt, China, Europe, Africa and Native American cultures, is making a comeback. Popularized by the growing acceptance of “alternative therapies” and Hollywood stars, there truly is something to this technique…but what exactly is it and how does it work. Cupping uses vacuum therapies to stimulates the lymphatic, circulatory, and central nervous systems. This causes a chain effect of positive reactions that are healing to the body – alleviating health issues from carpal tunnel to hormonal imbalances to breaking down scar tissue. Read Massage Today’s full article for an in-depth understanding of cupping. And if you want to experience it yourself – book an appointment with Dr. Tim Price or Dr. Shwu-Yar Tsai.

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A Season of Gratitude

By |2013-11-22T20:47:54+00:00November 22nd, 2013|Uncategorized|

Gratitude is a powerful emotion, like any muscle must be exercised daily.  It is very easy for us to get trapped into the art of comparing ourselves to others and thinking that more stuff with bring us happiness.
I challenge you this December to build the art of gratitude and appreciation into your daily life for 30 days.  Each day write down 10 things you are grateful for and read them aloud before you go to bed.  Make notes throughout the day so you don’t forget about small moments that you are grateful for, (like finding a parking space at the mall, a phone call with your friend, the smile from a kind soul on the street etc).
Here are a few reasons to practice gratitude on a daily basis.
1)      Grateful people take better care of themselves and their health.  They engage in  regular exercise, follow a healthy diet, take their supplements and get rest when they need it.  I believe that the more grateful you are, the more self-love you have for yourself and others.
2)      Gratitude also helps us manage stress.  Research is beginning to suggest that feelings of thankfulness have tremendous positive value in helping people cope with daily problems, especially stress.
3)      Being grateful boosts your immune system.  People who practice gratitude on a daily basis tend to be more optimistic, a characteristic that researchers say boosts the immune system.
Here is to you and your family this holiday season.  Take some time to be grateful for your life and all those that touch your life.
To your health,

Acupuncture and Herbal Medicine for Sports Injuries?

By |2013-06-05T14:45:33+00:00June 5th, 2013|Uncategorized|

sports-injuriesAcupuncture addresses sports injury from a holistic perspective by combining both Chinese Medicine and Western anatomy.
Practitioners make diagnosis and treatment plans from the functional differentiation of the organ systems, assessment of meridians and the origin of injury (cold, hot, etc). Then,  apply western medical and scientific knowledge to prevent, recognize, assess, manage and rehabilitate injuries related to sport, exercise or recreational activity. Chinese medicine also includes preventive medicine and thus, enhance performance and prevention of injury. Different modalities can be used in Chinese medicine such as herbal prescriptions, Tuina and dietary recommendations. Now, the modalities can include physical therapists, personal trainers, surgeons, massage therapists, dietitians, chiropractors, and psychologists in Western health care settings.
Take a ski injury as an example – an athlete had a fall and injured their ankle. First, observe and ask how the injury occurred, then make a diagnosis. Next, the acupuncture points are selected based on the meridian and the cold weather (cold stagnation and xue stasis).  After that, we make recommendations for the recovery and the treatment plan for follow up. Some Chinese herbs, Tuina, patches and moxibustion may be applied (Qi, Blood, Yin/Yang balance as well as Shen are considered in the treatment).
Overall, acupuncture has an incredible potential to help heal and strengthen the patient. As a result, the athlete has the ability to recover more rapidly, helping them get back to training, enhance performance and prevent re-injury.
Chinese medicine not only includes acupuncture, but other modalities. In Sport injury, all the modalities can play a part in the therapy from inside the body and outside the injury.

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