I became interested in natural medicine at a young age, writing my first report on acupuncture at age 12, and shopping the witchcraft stores of Salem for medicinal herbs as a teenager. In high school, I somehow became the designated counselor among my circle of friends, which led me to enter UMass Amherst as a psych major. But my passion for medicinal plants turned out to be stronger than that for psychology, and I ended up graduating with a degree in botany.
After college, hoping to find a way to pursue my varied health-related interests, I discovered that Traditional Chinese Medicine was the career I was looking for. It encompasses acupuncture, nutrition, qi gong, the world’s most sophisticated system of herbal medicine, and a model of health in which psychological factors are inseparable from physical ones. This brought me to Portland to attend the prestigious Oregon College of Oriental Medicine. Four years and several healing certifications later, I started my private practice.
In 2002, I decided to go back to school, this time to learn a different form of Chinese Medicine called Classical Five Element Acupuncture. CFEA specifically addresses the psycho-spiritual origins of illness, and its Daoist philosophical foundation is derived entirely from observations of nature. It sees the natural world as our greatest teacher, and natural phenomena as mirrors of all facets of human existence. It’s beautiful and poetic.
While practicing this system, I realized that I had personally benefited more from knowing Chinese Medicine and reconnecting with the natural world as my teacher than I had from having it done to me. My understanding of my body and surroundings is continually informed from this background. So, with the encouragement of many of my patients, I (slowly) started to write a book for laypeople on the essence of Chinese Medicine and the immense value of reconnecting with the natural world in order to better understand our lives.
Meanwhile, my wife and I established The Dragontree Holistic Day Spa in 2003, which quickly grew into a major healing center in Portland. Owning and working in a spa on a daily basis gave me a great appreciation for the healing power of spaces. I had previously worked in a typical medical building with beige carpet, white walls, and fluorescent light. In the spa, I saw that its colors and lighting, peaceful music, and gurgling fountains could turn a medical visit into a transcendent healing experience.
In 2006, I had a feeling that there wasn’t enough on my plate. A few years earlier, the Dept. of Education had granted schools of Chinese Medicine the ability to award doctorates. Up to this point, although most school were four-academic-year post-graduate programs, they were restricted to calling this a master’s degree. I felt we deserved to be on equal academic ground with other medical professionals, so I returned to OCOM and, after an additional two and a half years of study with many leading experts of Chinese and Western medicine, I was part of the third graduating class with a doctorate in this field. This program served as a nagging impetus to finish my book (and an accompanying three hour video presentation), which became my capstone thesis.
In 2007, still in the midst of my doctoral work, my wife and I opened The Clearing Cafe next door to our spa. Our dream was to provide a warm and bright spot for locals to enjoy high quality organic tea, food, juice, and coffee, including soups and smoothies that incorporated invigorating Chinese herbs into the recipes. Just a month after opening, our daughter Sabina was born. After a few years, we decided to leave the cafe business to someone else, and sold The Clearing to a wonderful couple. We still eat there all the time.
Meanwhile, Portland International Airport invited us to build a spa there. I hate airports, so the idea of creating a sanctuary in PDX, which would be as un-airport as possible (announcements of found bags being “confiscated and destroyed” notwithstanding), was very appealing. We opened our doors there in 2009.
Over the next few years, despite having so much going on in Portland, I started to get tired of living in a big city – and a mostly dark, rainy one at that. I found myself looking at the weather statistics and demographics of other places, and fantasizing about a life in the sun. I hadn’t intended to stay in Portland when I moved there for grad school, but ended up being there for 15 years. In August of 2012, we moved to Boulder, Colorado.
We had dreams of opening a spa in Boulder, but faced the most difficult challenges of our lives making it happen. Finally, after drawing on every possible resource, praying, chanting, visualizing, vision boarding, and working our asses off day and night, we finally made it happen in July 2013.
In October of 2014 we opened our fourth spa, this one in the Sheraton Hotel in Portland. And in November of 2014, our second daughter, Sailor, was born. We feel very blessed.