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Thursday
Aug282014

Stillpoint is becoming L.A. Wellness

We have a new name! We are now L.A. Wellness! This rebranding is a part of our expansion that began in March when we relocated from our Richmond Street location to the larger and newly renovated space here at 116 West Grand Avenue.  To celebrate this huge leap, we are having a Grand Opening party on:

Friday, October 10th, from 6-10p
and Saturday, October 11th, from 10a-4p.   

Mark your calendars now, because you won’t want to miss it!

To me, our new name along with our new logo, which is based upon a Celtic healing knot, is a perfect representation of the center we are creating.  The interweaving lines symbolize the interconnected nature of mind, body, spirit, and community. These four elements are woven throughout the L.A. Wellness mission, vision and values statement, which I invite you to read at our new domain: LAwellness.com/mission.  The expansion into our new space, along with the expansion of our service offerings and product lines, and rebranding of the company are all designed to do one thing:  to empower you to realize your beauty and wholeness and claim the birthright of  living a happy, healthy and fulfilling life.
 
So what will all of this look like?  Everything that Stillpoint already offers will remain in the new L.A. Wellness. In addition, we will add new acupuncture services like facial rejuvenation, and also be offering therapeutic massage, infrared sauna, aesthetician services and nutritional and other counseling.  I am currently in the process of assembling the team to bring these services to you, and you can expect to see them introduced over the next several months.  And please, give me any suggestions you may have about what you would like to see at your new and improved wellness center!
 
Next, L.A. Wellness is hosting several very cool programs that are taking place in our 2nd story community center, that we call “The Sanctuary.”  Two weeks ago, I told you about the 5-week hypnofertility series we will be starting in late September.  Also, we are already hosting two men's groups affiliated with the Mankind Project, and there is a women's group that is in the process of forming right now.  In the coming months, we plan to roll out a number of other programs, such as meditation, nutrition, and specialty movement workshops. 
 
I invite you to come in and see the changes for yourself.  The perfect opportunity to do that will be at our Grand Opening.  Attendance is mandatory :).  But, seriously, this event marks a culmination of 12 years of work and intention, and we want you to be there for it.  It is going to be a lot of fun, and we are really excited about all of you amazing people having a chance to meet each other and begin building the community that L.A. Wellness is seeking to create. So come and join us to eat some great food, hear live music, demo our services, samples and giveaways, have a chance to win a  “Wellness Membership”, hear speakers and experience some other great stuff that I think you will really dig.  And please bring your friends and family.  Mark your calendars now, but don’t think you have to wait until the Grand Opening to come and see us! You have an open invitation to come in and say hello.
 
If our intention for L.A. Wellness resonates with you, please spread the word about us!  In order to more fully realize our mission of providing deep healing to the community, we need your help.  I again invite you to give me your input on what would best support YOU and your journey towards greater health and wellbeing.  Because nobody knows you better than yourself!
 
Thanks for reading, and I can’t wait to experience all of these exciting changes alongside you over the coming months.
 
Yours in wellness and co-creation,
Joe Curcio, L. Ac. 
Thursday
Jul102014

What is Meditation?: Part 2

Let’s examine the quote from last week’s What is Meditation – Part 1 about how “All I can say truly is ‘I am’, all else is inference,” and how a deeper experience of this truth can lead you to a place of peace.

First, take a deep breath and check in with how your body is feeling.  Now, call to mind some situation in your life that is generating fear, anger, sadness or shame.  You may be afraid that something you hold dear will disappear from your life, or may fear that something unpleasant will never go away.  You may be angry about the way someone has treated you, or angry with yourself for allowing yourself to be treated that way.  Possibly you are experiencing sadness at a loss, or shame for how you have conducted yourself.  Invariably, you will have some judgments around any of these experiences…judgments about yourself, judgments about others (I use the term “judgment” in its broadest sense: a subjective label).  For the time being, just look at the various judgments you may have about yourself… I am angry.  I am sad.  I am petty for having done that… and so on. 

Now, recognize that inherent in none of these judgments is any absolute truth.  Why?  For the simple reason that these judgments come and go.  You have not always felt angry.  You have not perpetually judged yourself as petty.  These are thought forms that move through the mind.  Perhaps the thoughts occur with such great regularity and intensity that they create the illusion of permanence, but upon closer examination, they reveal themselves to have no substance.

Just as the flickering lights on a movie screen create the appearance of an objects existence, the object disappears from the screen when a shadow is cast in front of it or changes when a different reel is placed on the projector.   Imagine that the emotion you are experiencing is the image on the screen, but that you are the light that creates the image. Experience yourself as the timeless and formless awareness that experiences the play of forms dancing on the movie screen.  

The images on a movie screen have no inherent reality and are simply reflections of light.  Likewise the thoughts that move through consciousness are not YOU, but rather projections, which are oftentimes highly distorted.  The images will continue to be projected onto the screen.  You do not need to fight them, change them or understand them. 

What is more primary than these thoughts about ourselves?  What is the substrata within which these thoughts arise and pass away?  In this moment, there is no problem. You are the light of awareness that illuminates these thoughts.  Let everything fall away other than the experience of ‘I am’.   Be the light of awareness and abide in the colorless and formless experience of being prior to thought.

“All I can say truly is “I am”, all else is inference.  But the inference has become a habit…Learn to look without imagination, to listen without distortion.  That is all.  Stop attributing names and shapes to the essentially nameless and formless, realize that every mode of perception is subjective, that what is seen or heard, touched or smelt, felt or thought, expected or imagined, is in the mind and not in reality, and you will experience peace and freedom from fear.”  -- Nisargadatta

I hope the above exploration offers a glimpse into another way of looking at meditation.  I invite you to open a dialog with me about this topic during our next meeting with one another.

Yours in radiant health and curiosity,

Joe Curcio, L. Ac. 

Thursday
Jul102014

What is Meditation?: Part 1

If you were to ask ten different meditators what meditation is, you would likely get ten different answers.  To me, it is unimportant that we agree about what meditation is.  What is important is the curiosity and deep inquiry that leads us to find our own answers to this question.
 
Today, I will share with you my reflections on meditation, using a quote from Nisargadatta, an Indian sage, as a jumping off point:
 
All I can say truly is “I am”, all else is inference.  But the inference has become a habit…Learn to look without imagination, to listen without distortion.  That is all.  Stop attributing names and shapes to the essentially nameless and formless, realize that every mode of perception is subjective, that what is seen or heard, touched or smelt, felt or thought, expected or imagined, is in the mind and not in reality, and you will experience peace and freedom from fear.
 
For me, meditation spontaneously arises when I let go of all inferences about who and what I am and what everything else is… when all resistance to fully experiencing the present moment is released.  This simple surrender is a portal to communion with the infinite.
 
Before I go any further, know that I make no claims to be an authority on meditation.  I see myself as a fellow journeyer on the path walking side by side as we explore this human existence.  I began “meditating” in college, upon reading a required text for a Japanese Tea Ceremony elective class entitled, Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind, by Shunryu Suzuki. The reason I put “meditating” in quotes is because (and I am smiling as I write this) what I was doing during that time period as I sat with legs folded and eyes closed looked more like struggling and resisting than any type of meditation!  However, as Shunryu encourages: “be grateful for the weeds you have in you mind, because eventually they will enrich your practice.”  Another way of stating this is that “we come to nirvana (enlightenment) by way of samsara (illusion).”
 
Over the ensuing twenty years, I have explored various spiritual practices with origins ranging from yoga to Buddhism to new age thought.  In retrospect, very little of the time I’ve spent in those explorations has been true meditation as I have come to understand it. Most of what I was doing was manipulating my breath, my thoughts, my movements, and my beliefs in an effort to achieve a certain experience.. I don’t view these various forms of manipulation as “good” or “bad.” In fact, if you have read any of my other articles, you know that I engage in intention-based practices with great regularity, as I see our ability to shape our human experience through the way we think and act as a divine gift of creative power. However, I view true meditation as something altogether different.  I believe that true meditation has no goals or objectives, other than to see things as they are.  As paradoxical is it may seem, there is no reason to meditate other than for the intrinsic value of the experience of meditation.
 
Yet, ironically, I derive immense benefit in my daily life as a result of my meditation practice.  However, when meditation is approached from an orientation of seeking to improve oneself or reap benefit, it loses its power and meaning.  This doesn’t keep me from recommending a regular meditation practice to anyone who suffers from stress and anxiety.  Yes, I know, there are lots of contradictions.  I remember my brain getting tied in knots the first time I read Suzuki’s comment “To go one mile to the west means to go back one mile to the east.” (LOL)
 
For those of you just embarking on your exploration of meditation, you may find the above “broad stroke” comments as not very helpful at best, and confusing and disheartening at worst in guiding you on your path into your own practice. Yet, if you’ve read this far, there is something in you that recognizes value in this line of inquiry.
 
In next week’s Part 2 of this article, I will examine the above quote about how “All I can say truly is ‘I am’, all else is inference,” and how a deeper experience of this truth can lead you to a place of peace.
 
Yours in radiant health and curiosity,
Joe Curcio, L. Ac.

Friday
Jun272014

The Most Influential Person in Your World

"The voice that has the greatest influence in shaping your character and the degree of happiness in your life is the voice inside your head."  

This week I’d like to share an insight that emerged during a recent discussion with a close friend.  He was in distress around some negative self beliefs that had developed as a result of years of parental abuse.  He was commenting on how much those experiences and the messages he received from his parents colored his world view and every relationship in his life – resulting in a distorted and negative self-perception and feeling of isolation.  At one point in our discussion, I was attempting to impress upon him the notion that although our parents impart their own ideas, values and judgments upon us when we are young, it is up to us to determine which of these values resonate with us and which need to be discarded and replaced. So, I said to him, "The voice that has the greatest influence in shaping your character and the degree of happiness in your life is the voice inside your head."  

In other words, we are the DJs for our own minds.  We don't have to keep playing those old disempowering and depressing tracks we were given early in life over and over again.  We can choose thought patterns that serve us.  Most people understand the profound impact that our primary caregivers (usually parents) have on how we turn out.  Of course, there can be tremendous value in examining our childhood experiences in order to discover the underlying limiting beliefs that may be holding us back in life. But, consider the following.  Think of the sheer volume of words that your parents have said to you over the course of your life so far.  Now, think of how many words must have run through your own mind over the years in the form of “self-talk.”  I think it's a pretty safe bet that the volume of self-talk completely dwarfs that of “parent-talk” in your life – no matter how talkative and intrusive your parents may be.

So what are the thoughts in your head…what does your own self-talk look like?  Is it "I'll never be able to do this...my life sucks…I'm not good enough...nobody loves me"?  Or, is it more like "I know that I can do it...I have a great life…I’m great just the way I am…I love to share myself with others."  If you’re like me, its a combination of of the two.  But, I can honestly say that the positive is growing increasingly more prevalent, and a little further in this article I will share one of the practices that is helping make that a reality. 

Sure, everyone has a story, and we all have our own childhood wounds.  We’ve been dinged up and knocked around mentally, emotionally, spiritually, and sometimes physically. The messages we received as children, both positive and negative, are deeply embedded in our psyches and the corresponding emotions get buried in our bodies.  But, there is a body of work out there that demonstrates that we actually develop negative self-judgments as a mechanism for self-preservation (If you are interested in learning more about this concept, read Cheri Huber’s book There is Nothing Wrong with You, Going Beyond Self Hate.)  However, there comes a time when these negative beliefs no longer serve to protect us, and simply harm us.

How does self-talk create suffering in your life?  How many of the thoughts that run through your mind are the direct result of inherited beliefs from your parents and interactions with siblings, teachers, friends and lovers?  Are you interested in taking dominion over your mental space and replacing those old limiting beliefs with new ones that are in alignment with the person you want to be?  If so, how far are you willing to go in order to reduce all the negative self-talk and replace those limiting beliefs that no longer serve you?

"Mirror work," an idea I first learned about in the book You Can Heal Your Life, by Louise Hay, is one of my favorite ways to break these destructive negative self-talk cycles.  Mirror work is easy.  Simply look at yourself in the mirror, look deeply into your eyes, and state a positive affirmation about yourself.  The fundamental affirmation Louise Hay recommends is, "I love and approve of you exactly as you are."  I know it sounds kind of hokey, but it works!  I can tell you from first hand experience that when I first began to examine the content of my thoughts, I was shocked by just how often I found myself criticizing and critiquing almost every waking thing I did (or failed to do).  I suspect that if we all talked to others as harshly as we talk to ourselves inside our heads, that our social networks would devolve and our society would break down completely.  At the very least, we would be friendless and our own parents would disown us :).  On the other hand, think of how much more love we could give to each other and how much more peaceful and harmonious our world would be if we could simply and freely give continuous, unconditional, self-accepting love to ourselves. 
 
Here is a little tip to get the most out of this exercise.  Sometimes talking to myself in the mirror feels too mechanical, too superficial, and artificial – and I feel disconnected from myself and the world.  I have to metaphorically "shake" myself.  So I'll literally speak out loud to my body and say, "JOE!!!   WAKE UP!!!   ARE YOU LISTENING???  THIS IS IMPORTANT.  GET CONNECTED.  HEAR WHAT I’M ABOUT TO SAY.   Again, it sounds a little crazy, but it really works.  The important part is to really connect with your HEART when doing this exercise.

So what do you need to hear from yourself?  I invite you to take a moment tonight after you get ready for bed and tell yourself something that you need to hear.  Be the parent to your own inner child – the parent you needed, the parent you wish you had.  Even if you had fantastic parents, none are perfect.  Know that you are worthy of your own love, and that it is vitally important to your mental, emotional, and physical health to start receiving it.  Are you ready to recognize yourself as the most influential person in YOUR world?

All of this reminds me of a poem that my mother had taped to her refrigerator for many years.  I hope it has as much of an impact on you as it has had upon me:

If a child lives with criticism,
he learns to condemn.
If a child lives with hostility,
he learns to fight.
If a child lives with fear,
he learns to be apprehensive.
If a child lives with pity,
he learns to feel sorry for himself.
If a child lives with ridicule,
he learns to be shy.
If a child lives with jealousy,
he learns what envy is.
If a child lives with shame,
he learns to feel guilty.
If a child lives with encouragement,
he learns to be confident.
If a child lives with tolerance,
he learns to be patient.
If a child lives with praise,
he learns to be appreciative.
If a child lives with acceptance,
he learns to love.
If a child lives with approval,
he learns to like himself.
If a child lives with recognition,
he learns that it is good to have a goal.
If a child lives with sharing,
he learns about generosity.
If a child lives with honesty and fairness,
he learns what truth and justice are.
If a child lives with security,
he learns to have faith in himself and in those about him.
If a child lives with friendliness,
he learns that the world is a nice place in which to live.
If you live with serenity,
your child will live with peace of mind.
With what is your child living?

 
By Dorothy Law Nolte


Your in optimal wellness and self-acceptance,
Joe Curcio, L.Ac.
Friday
Jun132014

Happiness Journal

You will never change your life until you change something you do daily. The secret of your success is found in your daily routine.

- John C. Maxwell


Hi *|FNAME|*!
 I want to share something with you that I hope will have a profound and positive impact on your life.  I recently made a few simple changes in my daily routine to incorporate some basic principles of Positive Psychology that reinforce happiness.  It takes 5 minutes of my morning and another 5 minutes before bed... 

Easy!
 
When I start my day in the morning:
1.  I write down three things in my life for which I am grateful.
2.  Then I write down three things that, if they happen, will make my day GREAT.
3.  Then I state a positive affirmation about myself that I TRULY believe.
(The important element here is the emotion that stating the affirmation evokes.  Does it make me feel REALLY good about myself?)
4.  Finally, I think of some aspect of my life that is bringing me (or has brought me) tremendous freedom, love or joy.  With that thought, I think of some person (or group of people) who doesn’t have (or hasn’t been able to experience) that aspect in their own life.  Then I allow myself to sincerely feel the deep desire that the person is able to create that aspect and similarly experience the freedom, love, or joy in his or her life that I have in mine.
 
Before I go to sleep
1. I write down three amazing things that happened to me today.
2. Then I write down one way that I could have made my day better.
 
Simple!
 
I have adopted this routine because practices such as these have been shown to engender greater happiness in life, and are praised by those in the field of positive psychology.  If you are interested in learning more about this and/or discussing how you can customize elements of this for your own routine, I’m HAPPY to refer you to some additional resources.

Yours in gratitude and optimal health,
Joe Curcio, L. Ac.