Blue Poppy newsletter: QUINNSESSENTIALS: 2019 May 6

QUINNSESSENTIALS on Engaging Vitality

I have just finished the second of three modules in an Engaging Vitality (EV) training with Dan Bensky, Marguerite Dinkins, and Rayén Antón, L.Ac. Chip Chace was a part of the original EV team of developers and teachers, but he sadly passed last year—Rayén will teach the third module next month. This is the second time I have gone through this training. (I think for anything you want to learn, it’s important to expose yourself to it multiple times.)

It is a bit difficult to know where to start in describing this unique approach to acupuncture. It is so different that no other style approaches it in character or technique; it truly stands alone. Current students and seasoned acupuncturists with decades of experience are in the EV training with me, and both seem to pick up the work at about the same pace. Interesting that previous clinical experience in East Asian Medicine seems to not guarantee success in EV. What brings success is approaching the work with a spirit of openness and a willingness to follow the precise instructions given. Seeing the excellent performance of the students in the class, I find myself wishing I had come on this work long ago.

This quote from Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, often called the Shakespeare of the German language, captures a bit of the essence of the Engaging Vitality work:

“ himself is the best and most exact scientific instrument possible.”

That is quite a statement! Humans have built some amazing scientific instruments,

but I believe Goethe here is accurate: All these machines pale in significance and

potential accuracy when compared to a properly trained human. But the training of

this level of perception is a deep calling indeed.

There is another quote from William Blake that I mentioned in a previous blog that

bears repeating here:

“Singular and particular detail is the foundation of the sublime.”

Do we really in our own practices work in such a way so as to not miss singular and

particular” details? Or do we work much of the time on a sort of semi-autopilot? In

reality the full capacity of the human for refined perception is far richer than most

styles of acupuncture call upon. This sort of subtler perception played hardly any role

at all in my own master’s degree training. I mostly learned point locations and

protocols for treating this and that. Where I placed the needles was determined by a

sort of heady analysis of signs and symptoms. (I acknowledge that knowing this

approach to Chinese Medicine has helped me over the years with many patients, but

it is not the only approach available—that’s the main point.) If I palpated it was in

search of an ahshi location, not to gain needed information about the patient. I was

certainly interested in the sort of study that I now find in EV, but there was no one to

guide me along that sort of path.

In some popular non-TCM styles, for instance, we need know only where the report

of pain is, and we will know where we are supposed to needle—all without ever

needing to lay a hand on the patient. (Again, I am glad these sorts of styles are

available to us, because sometimes we need to work very fast and try to be helpful in

a short time frame, but it can’t be seen as the highest expression of East Asian

Medicine.) Of course, when the needling is performed in this sort of style, the patient

will be palpated to varying degrees. But this type of palpation will be mostly to

determine where to needle a given point, not to determine if a given point is a wise

or helpful choice.

In EV practice numerous types of assessments are performed, and one learns to

cross-check them to be doubly and triply certain that what one is going to do is a

helpful idea. In working in this manner, the most surprising treatments can emerge,

and I find this exciting and challenging. One can be led in the EV process to work on

channels that one would never have thought to involve in a given the patient’s

complaint. When I say “led” I mean that our palpatory exams bring us to these

channels and a quite specific point. That this is accomplished by palpation and not by

our thinking and analysis of the case is liberating to me. I have to rush in though to

clarify: In EV there is indeed a role for all sorts of acupuncture theories, but the EV

assessments inform us if they will bring the needed changes for the patient.

Earlier in my career I would not have believed my hands up to the task of the EV

assessments, but when I see how quickly students pick up the work, I realize it is all

teachable and not a function of having seen years of patients. The EV team has been

teaching this material for quite some time now, and their presentations are honed to

the level of a high art. What the participants are to do and how they are to do it is

always crystal clear.

Although the EV style represents a collaborative effort of the EV team, and as such is

not the exclusive work of Dan Bensky, I want to make a few observations about

studying with someone who has been in practice for 45 years and who has studied

and practiced the entire time with focus and dedication. First, many do not know that

Dan is also an osteopath with the impressive palpatory skills that come with doing

that work seriously for more than four decades. This high-level palpatory sensitivity is

brought to bear in how he practices acupuncture. And beyond his remarkable

treatment skills, Dan is a gifted teacher. His pedagogical talent lies in precise

preparation and possibly the clearest communication I have encountered from any

teacher. It is evident he has thought about many aspects of our profession and has

valuable insights to offer to his students. I recommend readers look at his translation

(with Chip Chace) of parts of the first chapter of the Ling Shu to get a sense of the

nuanced understanding he brings to his work. Here are links to this two-part article

from the EV website:

In writing about EV I have come to refer to it as a “mature medicine.” I do not mean this as an insult to other styles; in any style if we dedicate ourselves, we can advance to a higher level of practice. So much effort over the centuries in innumerable styles has been devoted to advancing East Asian Medicine, and we have to be grateful for all of these efforts. Because of my position as co-owner of a seminar-hosting company ( I have had the unique opportunity to study with many masters, and I have great respect for their work. But the EV practice calls on me to develop a level of sensitivity that is uncommon in our field—not unmatched perhaps, but certainly uncommon.

The Gregory Bateson, the late great cross-disciplinary genius once said:

“All forms are transforms of messages.”

One has to think a bit about the intended meaning here in this terse quote. Itpresents the same message we can find in Goethe’s scientific writings. (Goethe wasmuch prouder of his unique approach to science than he was of his enormous literary achievements, though in his day his scientific ideas were often dismissed as the work of a dilettante, not a genuine scientist!) The message? Nature is language. That is NOT intended as a metaphor by Bateson, nor was it by Goethe. A tree is a story you might say, and by extension a human body also has a great deal of information hidden in its particular form. Form is language for those with the eyes (and hands) to read it. Engaging Vitality is a style of acupuncture that has taught me to access information from the story in the bodies of my patients that I had previously missed. I am grateful to have this new way opened to me. I encourage readers to key an eye out for further EV trainings.

See for notifications about upcoming trainings.

Kind regards all around,
Bob Quinn

Chip's Obituary: Journal of Chinese Medicine • Number 119 •February 2019

This article is an obituary for the East Asian medicine practitioner, author and teacher Charles ‘Chip’ Chace.

By: Dan Bensky & Craig Mitchell

The East Asian medical world lost one of its most extraordinary teachers and practitioners when Charles ‘Chip’ Chace passed away on 3rd November

2018 due to pancreatic cancer. Chip lived a well- considered and coherent life. Regardless of whether he was rope soloing a rock climbing route, sharing his knowledge and love for the traditions of East Asian medicine, or just sitting quietly, he always fully expressed his being. His strong centre allowed him to be a generous and caring soul, someone whocould be both self-e acing and yet memorable.His presence and thoughtful interactions have left a profound impression on everyone who had the good fortune to come into his sphere. His motto, ‘Grace and Power’, was an apt descriptions of who he was.

We had the honour and joy of knowing and working with Chip for many years. His mental fortitude and ability to be fully committed to whatever he was doing was a wonder. From the outside he had three main interests, but in fact he tied them together so closely that they made a steady three-legged stool that served as a platform for his life.

He had an intense love of the wild, which expressed itself in his connection to rock climbing, a passion that started in his mid-teens and continued throughout his life. Besides having climbed all over the world, he spent a few weeks almost every year in solitude among the peaks of the Wind River Mountain range in Wyoming. The years he missed were because he was doing things like long solo trips to very isolated locations, such as Mt. Asgardon Ba n Island in Canada. As amazing as this was,the ‘Chip twist’ is that he had a coterie of climbing friends that he had climbed with since the late 70’s, and who continued to be his be compadresright up to the end. In fact three of them were byhis side when he died. These friends, themselveswell-known xtures of the Boulder rock-climbingscene, all spoke about Chip’s intensity, his pursuit of

56 Grace and Power: In Memory of Charles ‘Chip’ Chace

Journal of Chinese Medicine • Number 119 •February 2019

excellence, and his utter lack of any interest in celebrity.Fine Jade, the Sound of One Hand Thrashing and Ziji (the pinyin for ‘self’ in Chinese) were some of the climbing routes that Chip pioneered. The names of these and other routes speak of Chip’s innate ability to stay connected at once to climbing, East Asian medicine, meditation practice and his own quirky sense of humour.

He was rigorous without the slightest rigidity, self-assured yet humble, and both very determined and very funny.

Chip was a kind and patient teacher on the rock wall, as well as in the classroom. He was free with input to lessexperienced climbers and was happy to o er suggestions when needed. He had a very speci c way of taping hishands for crack climbing to protect the skin and allow for the best use of the special techniques unique to that discipline. He often brought his meditative practice directly onto the rock, spending moments before, during and after climbs in quiet contemplation of the task athand. Yet, he could also be a ery competitor whileclimbing, although most often he was in competition only with himself.

He had an almost equally long and intense relationship with East Asian philosophy, Buddhism and meditation. This expressed itself not only in a daily practice, but in multiple long retreats and a sense that all of his time in the wild was a way of obtaining the same experience. This interest in East Asia took him to study the medicine.He saved up by working in the oil elds of Wyoming andwent to the New England School of Acupuncture in theearly 1980’s. After nishing these studies, he returnedto Boulder where he had a very successful practice until his death. We have had the opportunity to see quite a few of his patients who moved to Seattle. Chip had not only been extremely helpful to these people, but had made deep and lasting connections with them.

By force of will and dedication, Chip learned to read Chinese pretty much on his own, which as many peoplereading this will realiae, is an impressive feat. In additionto his own voluminous translation work that has madea major impact in the eld of East Asian medicine, hewas warmly welcomed at advanced seminars on such topics as medieval Daoism and Tang poetry. With his friend Antje Richter, a professor at Colorado University, he recently published a long article in a prestigious Sinological journal.

While the above were the three legs of the stool of Chip’s life, the seat that made it all solid was his relationship with Monika, his wife of more than 30 years. Originally they met around rock climbing, but their intimate connection went far beyond shared

interests and attraction, to become something special.They shared o ce spaces for much of their married life— that they did it successfully and stayed together is all anyone needs to know about the strength of their bond. Both intensely private people, they found refuge and true love in each other’s company.

Our personal connection with Chip revolved primarily around our shared interest in East Asian medicine ingeneral and the role of palpation speci cally. We spenthundreds of hours together discussing these topics and teaching together. Chip was a generous and demanding friend and teacher. He was always ready to encourage someone by referring to how ‘juicy’ a particular topic was, yet all who worked with him had to be ready for his special way of saying ‘Really?’ to call out some sloppy thinking or a half-baked idea. He was rigorous without the slightest rigidity, self-assured yet humble, and both very determined and very funny. He always took seriously whatever he was working on or whoever he was working with, yet never took himself seriously.

His ability to integrate all these facets into one being was what stood out the clearest to us. To most people,the ne and subtle approaches to using the hands informs of Japanese acupuncture like Toyo Hari [where many of the practitioners wear gloves whenever not seeing patients in order to protect their hands] would bediametrically opposed to rock climbing, where ngersare jammed into cracks and twisted tight [and therefore damaged] to provide a hold. Not to Chip. Not only didhe demonstrate clearly that rough and frankly dis guredhands could be capable of the subtlest of sensitivity, but he would practice some of the hand positions associated with those types of acupuncture while putting hisngers in the cracks used for rock climbing. Those whoreferred to his approach to acupuncture as ‘Chip-ohari’ were on the right track.

We mentioned above that Chip had climbing friends who went back decades. One of them summed up Chip succinctly by saying that ‘He was the most intense laid- back dude you’ll ever meet.’ His own epitaph says thesame thing in a slightly di erent way:

He arrived and departed as an empty vessel.

Pursued many summits in between, attaining some while others remained elusive

But found grace in his life and death.
Dan Bensky and Craig Mitchell were friends of Chip Chace.

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Way of the Silent Master: A Chip Chace Eulogy on The Runout Podcast

Podcast from Andrew Bisharat & co-host Chris Kalous:

Chip Chace dedicated his life to the practice of climbing—which is to say, that he had dedicated his life to the practice of living. 

Chace was no household name in the climbing world, yet his contributions to climbing—such as the first ascent of Fine Jade, inarguably one of the best and most popular 5.11 desert towers—gave him a stature of respect and admiration within the core climbing community. 
Chace rarely spoke about his climbing, and yet you’d have to go really far to find a route he hadn’t done or an area he hadn’t explored. This silent passion, in which accomplishments speak for themselves, left an indelible mark among his closest friends and admirers. 
On November 3, at the age of 60 years old, Chace died of pancreatic cancer following a relatively short yet extremely painful battle with the disease. He died in his meditation room in his home in the mountains outside of Boulder, Colorado, surrounded by his closest friends and his wife, Monika. 

In the last weeks of his life, he wrote a letter to his friends and patients, whom he served as a practitioner of Chinese medicine. It’s a powerful letter that speaks to what an extraordinary spirit Chase embodied. Here’s an excerpt:

First and foremost, I want my death to be an act of creative transformation, that is to say, I want to die well. I’ve been training for this my entire life and I’m well prepared. I would have preferred to die in the mountains, and that is indeed what Monika and I had envisioned for me. I got this instead. Yet, here is precisely where I want to be. I cry from the raw wonder and intensity of the experience but never because I’m sad or afraid.

I’m grateful for every second I’ve lived so far and for whatever moments I have left. When I’m writhing in pain I scream thank you. When I’m puking my guts out I retch thank you…and sometimes FUCK!!!!!. I’ve been practicing more or less this way for a long time.

I think what Chace is saying here is that climbing might not just be a good way to practice living. Perhaps it might also be a way to prepare ourselves for the inevitability of death.

This is Andrew Bisharat, and I’m here with my co-host Chris Kalous. Today we have two guests: Jamie Logan and her son, Michael Logan. Jamie was a peer to Chace, a close friend and climbing partner. As a younger man, Michael considered Chace one of his most formative mentors. We invited Jamie and Michael on to do something that, ironically, might have caused Chace himself to grimace: put into words the significance of Chip Chace’s accomplishments as a climber. 

Our deepest condolences go out to all those who loved and admired Chip Chace.

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Chris Weidner on Chip: article in local Boulder paper

Chris Weidner: A life of gratitude, a death of beauty

Legendary climber Chip Chace passes on

By Chris Weidner

It's unusually chilly for Oct. 7 as I switchback up Fourmile Canyon to Chip Chace's house. Through the rainy windshield, cottonwoods are turning yellow. 

For the last few weeks Chace, a venerated doctor of Chinese medicine, has suffered restless nights, often in agonizing, almost unbearable pain. Driving the final miles I realize I'm nervous — acutely aware this will be the last time I ever see him. 

I'm also grateful that, among his countless friends, students, mentees and colleagues, he has made time to see me; he doesn't have much of it left. 

We sit together in his small cabin adjacent to the house he shares with Monika, his wife of 30 years, and their dog, Djinee.

"This is my home," he tells me, pointing to a photo he took in July of a utopian valley in Wyoming's Wind River range, where granite walls tower above lakes and wildflowers. Now 60, Chace has climbed in Titcomb Basin nearly every year since he was 20, and has rope-soloed every major feature there.

"It's the most beautiful place I've ever been," he says.

Chace recounts how he ended up there this summer: how he had just returned early from his second solo trip to Baffin Island in northeastern Canada. How after a punishing, multi-day approach he discovered his climbing gear cache had been stolen. How he was forced to bail, and how he suffered an overwhelming exhaustion he couldn't explain.

Back in the U.S. with extra time, Chace detoured to Titcomb Basin where he soloed Mount Helen, Titcomb's biggest climbing objective.

"It was a 17-hour moment of grace," he says softly. "The rock was perfect. It was just this bluebird day, Chris. It was like, 'Yeah, this is why I do this. This is why I'm going to continue doing this until I can't anymore.'"

"And then ..." he pauses. "I can't anymore." 

Immediately following his trip, Chace learned he was dying of pancreatic cancer.

"That's the last thing I'll ever climb," he says smiling wistfully, glassy-eyed. "It was just this amazing experience, this last gift of the mountains." 

After his first trip to Baffin Island last summer, Chace told me all of his climbing and rope-soloing — what he calls his "practice of the wild" — his mental training, his Zen practice ... everything had been preparing him for his dream climb: Mount Aasgard. 

"From the moment I decided to go to Baffin to the time I went to Baffin everything became brighter for me," he says. "Because it was like, you very well might get killed." 

Chace faced extreme isolation, a brutal climate, sketchy river crossings, crevasse hazard and hungry polar bears. And that's before the climbing began.

"We all know we're going to die," he continues, "but when you know you might die at some particular time, it amplifies it. You live in gratitude for every moment you have. That's what the practice of the wild is in its essence: it's a practice of gratitude."

Days earlier Chace was lying on a gurney in Urgent Care, "in this sea of pain," he says. "I was screaming, sobbing 'thank you!' I was practicing 'thank you,' surrendering to the 'thank you' of it. And Monika is on the gurney with me, spooned up against me, holding me. 

"It's how I want my death to be. I want to go into it with that openness and that gratitude Chris, that gratitude."

So now in his room, during a respite from the racking pain, he understands that his Baffin experience — that "extended flow state" he describes as stretching beyond both ends of his trip, into his past and into his future — was his final preparation.

"I thought Baffin was the big thing," he says. "This is the big thing." His cancer, his approaching death. "In a very real way Baffin was a trainer for this."

On Nov. 3, surrounded by eight of his closest friends, Chace passed away peacefully at home. 

"He died in a really beautiful way because of the people there," said Roger Briggs, Chace's climbing partner and close friend of 33 years. "And they were there because of the life he had lived. 

"There was so much love." 

Contact Chris Weidner at Follow him on Instagram: @christopherweidner and Twitter: @cweidner8

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Manuel Rodríguez Cuadras on Chip

A turning point. A European story.

I don’t remember the year, nor the day. I was in Berlín, in a Toyohari international workshop. Stephen Birch, a long time teacher and friend, approached Miguel Ángel –a friend and a colleague- and myself: ‘Look, I invited this friend of mine, Chip Chace, to give a seminar in Amsterdam, and I already booked the two of you in’. We immediately said ‘OK’, and after a moment asked: ‘What would be the seminar about?’. Steve was rather vague: ‘Something about palpation, I think… but Chip is a very interesting person and a real scholar’. Then, as we were in the middle of a struggle with writing a book together, he add: ‘Hey Manuel, perhaps you can talk with Chip about your herb’s chapter, I will send it to him and ask he get a look at it’. And that was it. 

This is as a good moment as any other in this story to confess that the name ‘Chip Chace’ didn’t evoke in me any special sense of awing or respect. Actually, Miguel Ángel reminded me that we have shared a workshop table the year before, and I still could only barely remember this mostly silent american with long, blond hair and somewhat deformed hand joints. Anyway, I agreed of Steve sending him my ongoing chapter, and mostly forgot about the whole thing up to the dates of the planned Amsterdam seminar

Days passed. Steve told me that Chip agreed on read ‘my chapter’, and he arranged we meet at his home the afternoon before the seminar start. And on this day and place I can say I really meet Chip. Meantime, I have got some basic information about him, and I was consequently grateful of a person of his fame and busy schedule agreeing to take a look of my writings. Not to say how afraid I was of being exposed to a scholar of his learning and knowledge, specially because I was acutely aware that ‘my chapter’ not only wasn’t as academically supported as it should be, but also put ahead some not so common ideas about herbalism in Chinese Medicine.  

Day D: I meet Chip at Steve’s home. He was calm, relaxed, a convival guy, the person, in sum, we all know he always was. After some friendly ‘a trio’ conversation with Steve, he went down to business, and asked me if it would be convenient to talk about ‘the chapter’ taking a walk… because he just arrived some few hours ago, and was suffering jet lag. This was my first personal glimpse of his generosity: he was devoiding to me some precious and needed rest time, just the day before starting teaching. And this was only the beginning. We walked and talked, and he very gently ‘grilled’ me about my concepts and knowledge on herbs, very delicately pointing out the weak points of both my reasonement and my academic formality on supporting them. And I want to underline the kindness which he displayed on all that. Chip was the first person in which I recognized what was to become what I think now is the hallmark of a true master: he was discussing with me over matters in which I was clearly inferior, and was able to do it in a manner that gave me the impression that I was almost at the same level than he. No crushing superiority, no the faintest reproach for my obvious lack of academic support, no. This person, who didn’t know me at all, not only was giving me his precious time, but he was also displaying a kindness and an intellectual generosity over whatever standard you might wish to measure them . Kindness, generosity, deep knowledge and intellectual rigor were the hallmark of this conversation, and the years to come will only show that these were virtues deeply ingrained in Chip’s personality 

The seminar started.  At that time ‘Engaging Vitality’ has no name, and his techniques and learnings were absolutely unknown in Europe. Chip, as you suppose, was brilliant. He made several presentations on different subjects: Extraordinary Vessels (I hardly understood their pulses…), the three basic concepts of  dynamics, tendency and incipiency, the shape of qi, the yang rhythm (then still called CRI) and other osteopathic ideas, always stressing the importance of palpation, and making all of us perceive thorough our hands. This was my turning point. Suddenly the ‘Axis’, the now famous paper on LS1 he did with Dan Bensky came alive, a torrent of new ideas was pouring over me, almost I would say drowning me. I felt at the same time that a rug has been pulled under my feet and that I was solidly grounded, stepping in the fundaments not only of the Chinese Medicine, but of a vision of humanity; I felt like falling down a chasm, and at the same time flying; at the same time I appreciated all the techniques aquired along the years and discard them to make place for this marvelous new world… and I realized I had to do something real with all  this

At the time I was teaching Chinese Medicine, already nuanced by the history and procedures taught by Steve, Junko and their team; but I had to do something more with this new material, this new feeling. I went to Chip and asked him for his presentations, telling him I wanted to use them in my classes, and again, this generous person, this very special teacher, gave me all his precious slides, withholding nothing, with the only proviso of not to publish them. These slides, which I translated and used in my classes, were the origin of what at the moment I called ‘Subtle needling’. I was always keeping Chip abreast of what I did with his material, and we warmly discussed the ways I evolved it, but this is maybe another story. Chip knows that the material I learned was and is treated as a legacy, not to be –as the parable in the Bible illustrate us- to be kept dusty and untouched, but to be alive, growing and developing. The new vision of Chinese Medicine, the use of palpation and how all that influenced both my practice and my teachings, were a clear turning point, an before-and after point in my life

But I still did another thing: when coming back to my practice in Barcelona I told Rayen she had to go to the next Chip’s seminar. Again the ironies of life: she was very, very reluctant to go, mostly because she was more or less recently trained in Toyohari, and was enjoying his marvelous procedures, but also because she had glimpse Chip in one of the Toyohari workshops and formed a very poor opinion of him. I got her going to Chip’s next workshop anyway, probably out of the respect she had for me at the time, and again Chip’s magic worked. Rayen came back to Barcelona ‘converted’. It would be inconvenient to talk about her experience, it is a subject which has to be addressed by her when and if she cares for, but I can say that she was saying: ‘With Toyohari I found my hand; with Chip I found my other hand’. She worked together with Miguel Ángel to bring Chip to Barcelona to teach, which he did, and when he came, Rayen put to herself the duty of getting him to come at least once a year, aiming to make a kind of permanent base for the development of what we learned. As the books usually say: ‘and the rest is history’. Other people came here, were interested in Chip’s teachings, and proposed seminars in other countries. Marguerite and Dan were also considering setting a foot in Europe and came here to teach. The name of Engaging Vitality was born, teaching was –somewhat reluctantly- getting structured, study groups were functioning, and more and more people were, and is, getting committed to EV principles and practice

Now my part of the story is almost over. All these years I enjoyed Chip’s teachings, wit, and company, and now I am teaching not only Engaging Vitality, but also an acupuncture style were I do a kind if preview of it, with the idea of serving as a bridge towards EV for the people who never learned that a body and its vitality are a palpable reality. All that started in a not so far past, when Steve invited Chip to Amsterdam, and when I was deeply impressed by the quality and generosity of the man who called me ‘his brother on yi’.  Now his material presence is over, but as we all know, his spirit and legacy is and will be developing healthy, alive and luminous. A big hug and a deep bow to you, Chip

Manuel Rodríguez Cuadras

Medicina Clásica Oriental, Barcelona, Spain 

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Chip Chace’s 2 Playlists: Soundtrack To My Life & Final Passage

Chip’s Playlist: Soundtrack To My Life (made by Chip)

All Along the Watchtower Jimi Hendrix Voodoo Child: The Jimi Hendrix Collection

Voodoo Child (Slight Return)Angélique Kidjo Oremi

Taboo Santana Santana III

Comfortably Numb (Live) Pink Floyd Live At Knebworth 1990

Angry Eyes Loggins & Messina The Best: Loggins & Messina Sittin' In Again

Dambalou Issa Bagayogo Timbuktu

Tangled Up In Blue Bob Dylan Blood On the Tracks

Wicked Game Phillip Phillips The World From the Side of the Moon (Deluxe Version)

Easy to Slip Little Feat Sailin' Shoes

Love Reign O'er Me The Who Quadrophenia (Super Deluxe)

Dambalou Issa Bagayogo Timbuktu

Goin' Home Malcolm Holcombe The RCA Sessions

High on a Mountain Nikki Matheson Invisible Angel

Over the Edge Sarah Jarosz Build Me Up From Bones

Chip’s Playlist: Final Passage (made by Chip)

The Lightning Strike (What If This Storm Ends?) Snow Patrol Greatest Hits

Destiny (feat. Sia) Zero 7 & Sophie Barker Record

Glowing Heart Aoife O'Donovan Fossils

Hejira Joni Mitchell The Studio Albums (1968-1979)

I Think I See the Light Cat Stevens Mona Bone Jakon

You're My Flame (feat. Sia) Zero 7 Record

Take It to the Limit Eagles Selected Works 1972-1999

Lady Luck Corinne West & Kelly Joe Phelps Magnetic Skyline

Brothers In Arms Dire Straits What Just Happened? (Music from the Motion Picture)

Ramble On Led Zeppelin Led Zeppelin II (Remastered)

Release Pearl Jam Ten

Voodoo Child (Slight Return) Angélique Kidjo Oremi

Feels So Different Sinead O'Connor I Do Not Want What I Haven't Got

High on a Mountain Nikki Matheson Invisible Angel

Done Got Old Buddy Guy Sweet Tea

A-500 Klaus Badelt & Mark Batson Miami Vice (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack) Part of Me, Part of You Glenn Frey Thelma & Louise Soundtrack

Old Friend The Allman Brothers Band Hittin' the Note

Goin' Home Malcolm Holcombe The RCA Sessions

Lateralus Break of Reality Covers

Walking Man Zoë Keating One Cello x 16 (EP)

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Chip Chace obituary in Rock and Ice Magazine

Chip Chace, Author of “Fine Jade” and Many Major Climbs, Dies at 60

Chace died in Boulder on November 3.

By Jamie Logan | November 5th, 2018

Chip Chace lived his whole life as an extended spiritual practice. “Somehow my climbing practice is not substantively different from my Chinese medical practice, from my meditation practice, from my marriage practice. They inform one another,” Chip said. He was a prolific climber, one of the best all-around of his generation. He came to Boulder at 17, already a 5.11 climber, and soon was climbing with Pat Ellinwood, Steve Levin and Roger Briggs. They would all climb together for forty years. Chip and Pat did the first ascent of Fine Jade and Chip had over 50 ascents of the Diamond with all of them. Chip could lead hard aid, 5.13 free climbing, and many of his climbs had an R rating for minimal protection.

He felt in the later years of his life that his solo climbs, when he was often out for many days at a time in the mountains, were the most important part of his spiritual practice, because it caused him to be fully aware the whole time. He was doing hard climbs all over the country by himself, and never really came back and told anybody, or certainly never wrote about any of it.

We went to Yosemite two years ago, and I helped him carry gear up to the base of the Regular Northwest Face of Half Dome for a rope solo. He started at 3:00 in the afternoon and climbed all through the night because he didn’t want to have to interact with other parties, finishing the next morning.

Recently he felt like he was getting older and he couldn’t climb as well as he had been. He could no longer onsight 5.13, but he could still climb alone in the mountains and he felt that was his place. He had always wanted to solo Mt. Asgard on Baffin Island. On Asgard there was a rockfall that cut his rope, so he came down and decided to tackle Mt. Freya. He was climbing that by himself, and was up in an icy gully when he fell thirty feet and broke his ribs. His comment was, “To the extent that there was a ‘me’ at all—which is a whole other thing, right?—I was completely comfortable.”

Chip was one of America’s foremost scholars and practitioners of classical Chinese medicine. With a small group of colleagues, he was involved in developing a new cutting-edge approach to Chinese medicine diagnostics and treatment. He had many deeply appreciative students and patients.

Chip met his wife Monika in 1987 and they were married soon after. They were very independent from one another, but they still were a tight team. They both loved being in the mountains and the desert and there was quite a long period when they climbed together, doing first ascents in Indian Creek up to 5.12. Monika is a remarkable healer herself, and the two of them had a combined medical practice that really fit together well. After 30 years they were still deeply in love.

Chip died Saturday, November 3, 2018, at the age of 60, in his meditation room at home in the mountains outside Boulder, after a short and intensive course with pancreatic cancer. He always held a deep sense of loyalty towards his close friends. He died surrounded by those friends and of course with Monika. The climbing community, the Chinese medicine community and the Zen community—we are all in grief for the loss of this amazing human being.

In the last weeks of his life, Chip Chace wrote several pieces focused on, among other topics, facing his own mortality and the joys of his life. To read them, visit

Link to Chip Chace obituary on EV blog: share & see Comments

Barcelona 2018 October: Kailey Brennan

Back in the spring my husband and I planned a trip to Spain that would coincide with the Yearly Follow-Up Class in Barcelona (YUFB) at the end of September. This is an annual 2-day class that Chip has been facilitating for close to a decade for practitioners across Europe who are continuing to progress with the Engaging Vitality (EV) material. It’s an opportunity to review topics participants want to revisit, practice the various palpation techniques, and reconnect and practice with fellow practitioners. Rayén Anton, a Barcelona-based practitioner who organizes and teaches EV trainings throughout Europe describes the YUFB as “a special kind of gathering, made by all the parts (which is all of us) and becoming something that is more than the sum of the parts.” I think this is a very beautiful way of describing it, and captures just how I feel when I get the opportunity to spend time and practice with fellow practitioners in the US who are also working with the EV material. 

This year’s YUFB directly followed a 3-day Visceral Course with Dan Bensky. Dan lead the first day of review and practice while the EV European teachers crew oversaw the second day. For just coming off of a very full few days of training, everyone (and their very juicy livers) were remarkably focused and present. 

It was a jam-packed couple of days. But a few things really stand out…

First off, when you make your way across the Atlantic Ocean to have Dan Bensky tell you for the ten-thousandth time that you’re still emitting when practicing the Manual Thermal Technique, it really has a way of finally getting through. I have a tendency to come in really hard and focused and look for the top of the Thermal Layer and end up doing all kinds of emitting in the process. But for whatever reason this time his instruction really got through to me. I understood what he meant when he told me I was emitting. I got it. Oftentimes it works out this way learning these palpation techniques. It takes a long time and a lot of practice and then just a bit of refinement in the moment and then “Wow, I get it.” A big learning moment presents itself. It finally gets into your body.

It was very evident to me from the beginning that this is a group of practitioners who have been deeply influenced and shaped by Chip’s approach to the Engaging Vitality material. The individuals who I had the good fortune of practicing with during the two days exhibited this very lovely and admirable blend of clinical rigor and deftness with genuine, heartfelt presence. The word that I kept hearing repeated while practicing was appreciation - appreciation for the quality of touch and resonance with patients, appreciation for the Shape of Qi, appreciation for the appearance and quality of the Fluids, appreciation for what the patient’s system is trying to convey in this moment. The European teachers really embodied a sense of soft focus and levity, this kind of benevolent attentiveness when making contact with the qi. 

Additionally they are all fantastic teachers - patient, precise, encouraging, and very supportive. During a practice session I received some feedback from Rayén that was so helpful, so incredibly useful in my own personal process as a practitioner. I really don’t think I could have heard it or digested it if it had been given by a different teacher or if it had been delivered in any other way than how she delivered it in that moment. Rayén helped me to really see and understand in the moment that my particular stance and energetic communication was too forceful and too forward and that it was inhibiting me from really being able to come from a more receptive and open place while needling, a place of true listening. This was very evident in the fact that when I did start to soften and pull back, my partner’s system started talking to me, and I was able to connect with a sense of Settling, Suppling, Integrating and Opening (SSIO) while needing. This was invaluable feedback, a true gift, the lessons for me applicable in my life even beyond my practice of Traditional East Asian Medicine. 

We fleshed out Channel Listening a little more. We revisited some of the material we all went over in the Cranial Course. We did a practice set on Listening Through The Needle that was fantastic and for the first time gave me a visceral sense of what that actually means. We talked about differentiating between the Fluids and the Shape of Qi. We talked a little bit about the timeless quality of working with the fluids, how time has a way of slowing down when making contact with the fluids and we find ourselves inhabiting a different space. We discussed the importance of not forcing anything, respecting limits, and the importance of gentle pacing and listening and quietude in the clinical encounter. We talked about Extraordinary Vessel movement, morphology, and resonance. It was such a breadth and depth of material that we were able to discuss in such a short period of time, and at the end of the two days it gave me such an appreciation for how incredibly cool the Engaging Vitality material is, how fun it is to work with the principles and the palpation techniques, to share in this joy with my colleagues, to see how I have been nudged along and encouraged and have grown as a practitioner. It was very joyful for me to be there. I felt an immense amount of gratitude. 

Altogether my husband and I spent about two weeks in Spain, a good deal of it in Barcelona. I e-mailed Chip at one point while I was there to tell him: 

I also love that you guys have set down such strong roots in this city. I love this city and I love to get lost here. To the extent that I am willing to totally lose my way here, to get lost, I am rewarded with new experiences, locations, something interesting to come upon. The more willing I am to get lost, the more likely I am to find something completely new. The metaphor of EV is totally alive for me in this city. And it’s all imbued with warmth, benevolence, curiosity, appreciation, boundless love.

Kailey Brennan, October 2018

Chip Update #3

Dear Friends, 

Since my last update, I spent 10 days at home under the loving care of Monika, and David Cooks, my dear friend from Bend. Monika is plugging along, trying to maintain whatever normalcy she can in her life when she’s not here just holding me in her arms.

Cooks is some sort of a cross between a superhero and a saint. He’s stayed with me pretty much 24/7, and shepherded me through a bunch a nasty pain crises in addition to managing an unimaginable amount of logistical work. At one point he was my student but he’s become a far better acupuncturist than I ever was, and I’ve been benefitting from those skills on a daily basis as well. Monika and I would be lost with out him.

Roger Briggs is my social director and the other arm of my logistics team. He’s managing a large amount of email that I’m receiving, and coordinating the input I get, which isn’t much. A few other dear friends have been close by, but I’m unable to see many visitors. The pain and nausea characteristic of this disease have been an ongoing challenge. We are constantly adjusting the meds, which work for a day or two but then become virtually ineffective. Nighttime is the most difficult for pain, though the last two nights were considerably better due to a dilaudid pain pump. I only have a few hours each day when I’m lucid enough to read, write, or talk much, so please forgive me for not responding to the many messages that have been sent to me.  

Last weekend brought two midnight visits to urgent care with unmanageable pain. This landed me back to the hospital a few days ago for a new round of pain management strategies. First, we tried a nerve block procedure, but it proved ineffective, probably because the cancer has spread so much. Today I am being transferred to an acute hospice care facility in Longmont. The plan is to stay there a few days until we are confident that the pain meds are working, then to go home. We are not pursuing any heroic, life-­‐extending treatments. My goal is to die well.  

In the time I have left I need to finish my part of a textbook concerning the synthesis of acupuncture and osteopathic palpatory techniques. To do this work, the meds have to be working well enough to help me manage the pain without leaving me incoherent and nodding off.  

A number of my closest colleagues have flown in to provide support for this project. Rayen Anton traveled from Barcelona and is collaborating with me on several chapters. Rayen and I worked together as much as I could manage and made good progress while she was here. Dan Bensky, my longtime friend and coauthor of this book, arrives today and will spend parts of the next four days working with me. After Dan leaves, Kailey Brennan, one of my students from Denver, will coordinate some 2-­‐hour scribing sessions. I need to spend whatever time and energy I can summon to finish this up. 

Last week I had a visit from Miki Shima, an elder brother in the practice of Traditional East Asian Medicine and a very close friend.  About 10 years ago I asked Miki why he had gone back to practicing Shinto, the ancestral religion of Japan. We all love nature, rocks and trees, but do they really have to have a spirit that we must propitiate? He explained that Shinto was really about gratitude. We don’t so much worship rocks and streams as we express our gratitude for the gift of our being part of the universe in whatever way, good or bad. This insight has shaped my own Zen practice ever since.  

It was good to have Miki here to help me further catalyze this practice, because now it is game on.  I offer my sincere gratitude for my 30-­‐year marriage to a magnificent woman; for a lifetime of wandering in the mountains; for the many patients and students I have had the privilege to have worked with; and for the love and support that so many of you have expressed.  

Perhaps most difficult of all I am trying to fully embrace the reality of my situation with gratitude. I want to go beyond just coping with it all, to a place where there is nowhere else I would rather be. My deepest thanks to all of you for helping me to work toward that.  


To see Chip’s earlier Updates go to:

Please send all correspondence to:

Diane Chiang on EV

Diane says . . .

Listening to the body can greatly impact a treatment. I have felt the profound effects, and these experiences have motivated me to persist in practicing the Engaging Vitality palpation techniques.

I received my first experience as a patient. I was being treated in the SIOM student clinic when Marguerite Dinkins, as supervisor, listened to the push-pull of an inserted needle. Marguerite then informed the student practitioner that the needle needed to be inserted 1 more millimeter. The point location was correct but the depth of the needle was not where it needed to be, to fully engage with the channel pathway. After the needle was adjusted, I could instantly feel the channel opening up and my lower abdomen warm up. The correct needle depth opened up what was blocked. Who knew that 1 millimeter would make such a difference?  I imagine this is like getting a new house key made, if the angles and depth of the new key "teeth" are not precise, it is much more difficult getting the door open to get into the house. This was the moment I realized that Engaging Vitality palpatory skills could lead to very powerful and effective treatments.

The second experience I had also left a similarly lasting impression on me. I was in Module 2, Dan Bensky was helping us to further refine our palpatory skills. Our small group needled 2 points on the patient that we found through our Engaging Vitality palpation. The Yang Rhythm (quality of the movement of Qi) had improved and was greater and smoother. Dan then proceeded to needle reliable ST36. To my surprise, the Yang Rhythm changed. The movement of the Qi was no longer big and smooth. I couldn't feel it anymore. The first 2 points had affected positive change but the body was now telling us that ST36 was agitating it. It is one thing to hear Dan and Marguerite tell us to not over treat but to experience it under my own hand and by having the patient's body tell me directly was a very clear and strong message. The patient also reported that although she did not feel the insertion of the needle into ST36, her body did not feel right.

It was very powerful to experience firsthand the profound effects of using Engaging Vitality to guide a treatment, both as a patient and as a practitioner. The empirical successes have encouraged me to keep practicing, to fine tune my techniques and to improve my sense of touch.

Diane Chiang,

SIEAM (Seattle Institute of East Asian Medicine) graduate.

Update #2 from Chip

Dear Friends, September 27, 2018

First and foremost, thank you for your kind and healing communications. There is no way I can respond to all these but please know how much I appreciate the love and support that has been expressed to me.

I left the hospital on Monday Sept 24 and came home. This is a much better environment for me and I have a core team of friends and loved ones taking care of me. The pain is generally under control and the side effects of the opiates are improved but still need work. But I am in good spirits.

One of the many challenges is dealing with all of the communications that are still coming in by email, text, and voice. We have more than 300 people from all over the world on our contact list and it’s very draining for me to process this, so I have a communications team receiving everything and making decisions about when to reply and what I need to see. Please direct all communications to: Iamchipspancreas at

Now that I’m settled in I can begin attending to a few things that I would like to complete in the time I have left. This means that I need space and energy in my life to complete these goals, and sadly I have very little of either. It is a difficult decision to make but with the exception of a few members of my extended family who will be flying in during the next month or so, I will not be receiving visitors. As Monika and I have specific support needs, we will reach out to any of you who may be willing and able to help us out.

Deep thanks for your support.

Love, Chip

Chip’s Saga 2018 September

Chip Chace’s Saga, 2018 September

Greetings friends,
Sorry for taking so long to respond to your missives.
As you may have heard, I’ve had a rather challenging summer culminating in a diagnosis of adenocarcinoma of the pancreas.

Those of you uninterested in the following back-story can skip this bit.
Back in April 2018, I trapped a testicle in my climbing harness and experienced a mild strain injury. The pain persisted and did not seem to improve. In late May, I had a colonoscopy, which was normal. Shortly thereafter, I developed symptoms of gastritis while teaching in Europe. I was unable to consume wine or eat like normal. I experienced persistent gastric upset accompanied by pain radiating between the left flank and both testicles.

I saw my Primary Care Doc at the end of June and we decided to treat for H. Pylori with a berberine-based formula and an iteration of Wen Dan Tang, a Chinese herbal formula. Things improved considerably on this regimen.

I left for Canada on July 8th on a return tip to Baffin Island, while continuing on my gut meds. I flew for two days followed by a one-day boat ride, then a two-day walk, including two sketchy river crossings only to discover that my gear cache had been stolen and that an attempt to solo Mt. Asgard would not be possible.

I made my way back to Boulder by July 20-21. I sought solace in the Wind River range in Wyoming. I’ve been soloing there for the past 40 years and its my home range. Ten miles west of Rollins, I was rear-ended by a semi trailer that was going 40 miles per hour faster than I was. I totaled my Toyota FJ, but was miraculously unscathed otherwise. Monika came up and got me so that I could regroup back in Boulder. I returned to the Winds with a rental car and spent another two weeks climbing. I still had to be very careful about caloric intake and continued on my meds. I did have a 17-hour moment of grace during which I soloed the 1800 west face of Mt. Helen. All the while, I was juggling the gut and testicular discomfort as best as I could.

Upon returning home the upper GI symptoms began to diminish, although the left flank pain persisted, as did the radiating pain into the pelvic floor. I continued working, but was doing very little else. The flank pain became increasingly prevalent and unresponsive to anything that I tried.

I was admitted to Boulder Community Hospital on Saturday 9/8 at midnight with left-sided flank pain that was unresponsive to pain relievers. They ruled out the possibility of a kidney stone via CT scan. This they followed with a CT scan with contrast dye, which identified pancreatic adenocarcinoma and hydronephrosis.

Presumably the tumor or an adjacent lymph node is compressing my left ureter and this is causing the pain.

I continued to have a difficult time with adequate pain control. I received morphine and dilaudid via IV every hour, plus oxycodone every two to three hours and atavan every three hours, which helped with sleep. They also put on a fentanyl patch since I was still getting inadequate pain control. This helped a great deal with the pain. They put in a nephrostomy tube on the left, which helped to decrease pain from the ureter. At some point, I developed intractable hiccoughs, which persisted for 5 days. None of the drugs for this were especially helpful.

I became less responsive to all the pain meds. At some point last night on Friday, 9/14, Monika worked on me while I was in the midst of my barely conscious delirium and this seems have mitigated the hiccoughs significantly but not entirely. The fentanyl made me delirious and I rapidly improved after the removal of the fentanyl patch. By Saturday afternoon, 9/15, I was alert and the pain briefly abated Though by the next day I was again began experiencing nocturnal pain that was off the charts. Two days ago that shifted to nearly severe pain accompanied by intensive wrenching and vomiting fatigue, weakness, and mental fogginess.

The Intensity Scale

Pain is often graded on a scale of 1-10 with 10 being unbearable. For me it’s useful to grade other experiences based on their raw intensity using a similar scale. Uncontrollable vomiting, retching, chills, weakness and muscle twitching may rate a 9 or even a 10 even though actual pain involved. In Baffin last year, I embodied the wild in the midst of a level-10 intensity experience and catalyzed a lasting moment of transformational grace. My death deserves no less than that.

Current Status

My diagnosis is adenocarcinoma of the pancreas and hydronephrosis in the left kidney. There is currently a tube draining that kidney. My biggest medical issue is extreme pain, followed by vomiting, nausea, and mental fogginess. They have not yet staged this extent of the cancer as this requires a PET scan, an outpatient procedure. I still need IV meds for the pain, which requires me to be inpatient. Catch-22. On the other hand, no one is in much of a hurry for me to get the PET scan as all other signs point to significant metastases.

Prognosis is poor. The immediate goal is palliative care - get me home and functional on oral pain meds. Now that I’m marginally lucid, I’ve begun doing Chinese medicine, acupuncture and osteopathy to help me recover whatever strength I can.


First and foremost, I want my death to be an act of creative transformation, that is to say, I want to die well. I’ve been training for this my entire life and I’m well prepared. I would have preferred to die in the mountains, and that is indeed what Monika and I had envisioned for me. I got this instead. Yet, here is precisely where I want to be. I cry from the raw wonder and intensity of the experience but never because I’m sad or afraid.

I’m grateful for every second of I’ve lived so far and for whatever moments I have left. When I’m writhing in pain I scream thank you. When I’m puking my guts out I retch thank you...and sometimes FUCK!!!!!. I’ve been practicing more or less this way for a long time.

I want to optimize my time with Monika and Djinni.
I also want to nudge my students along as best I can.
If possible, I want to finish up a couple of writing projects,

To achieve these goals, I need to ration my time carefully. We’ve set up this gmail email account: IamChipsPancreas at gmail dot com so that we can keep you updated in a manner that creates the least amount of hassle for everyone.

I’m not seeing visitors just now, but if you want to get together or talk on the phone then please email us back at this email address and we will contact you with information (but DO NOT REPLY ALL because there are about 300 people on this list). That way we can have meaningful conversation with as few interruptions as possible. Please do not just stop by, as virtually every hour of my day is schedule. I know many of you have already expressed interest in getting together. We’re just getting organized here so please write again now if you’re still interested.

A thousand thanks for your love and support Love, Power, Grace and Gratitude to you all.


Maria Portnaya on EV

Maria says . . .

I have been exposed to Engaging Vitality work for close to a decade, but only now am finding the ability to dive deeper and bring the tools into my practice. In writing this, I want to share my experience and reflection upon the past years and most recent 6 months. 

I remember being introduced to some of the tools from EV back when I was a graduate student at SIEAM (Seattle Institute of East Asian Medicine). The degree to which we as a class were exposed to these methods of assessing the body and Qi was very superficial. I liken it to the foam on top of your latte, learning something briefly and skimming the surface. Exciting yes, but not substantial enough. I think part of fundamental education in East Asian Medicine is to be exposed to many different lines of thought and practices so that we as practitioners can choose what resonates most and follow it deeper. In the course of my own private practice, many things I had learned during SIEAM have taken a back stance and some things have moved more to the foreground. I think unanswered questions and experiences in the clinic really dictate this trajectory for me. It has taken me some time to take action to pursue my curiosity and sign up to take the EV modules as CE courses. After taking the first two modules, I feel more connected to the medicine I practice, more eager to practice the methods and wondering why I have waited this long to arrive here. Learning these seemingly simple methods of examining the body and Qi has opened up a lot of dialogue inside my own experience. In reflection I can honestly say, there is a sense of fresh air when it comes to practicing EV in the clinic. This feeling is renewing me in a way. It allows me to create more space by setting aside the things I think I know, and allow myself to rest in not knowing it all. So far, with the instruction from Marguerite Dinkins and Dan Bensky to drop the ambition and practice I am taking myself past the surface into this study with their help. I cannot be more grateful to the additional practice sessions that Marguerite and Dan lead. During the last practice group I realized how much support these sessions are offering me. I find them to be most valuable and crucial in order to deepen my skills, in order to get immediate feedback, and be charged with energy to continue the dive. With all things that take time to cultivate and develop, having this support from the EV team helps me tremendously. Like roots to a tree. Thank you!

-Maria Portnaya LAc., Ageless Acupuncture LLC

An EV Case from Jennifer Spain in Raleigh, NC.

A few months ago, a friend, who is also an acupuncturist, reached out to me for help with a year-old neck injury.  He had been treating himself with adequate success over the past year, but recently had an unexplainable flare up that involved both the right side of his neck and his right shoulder.  The neck pain was tight and achy—similar to what he had been experiencing for the past year, though more severe, and the shoulder pain was a new, deep squeezing pressure inside the joint capsule. He hadn’t had much luck getting the pain to shift with the treatments he’d been giving himself. 

Upon examination, I found the yang rhythm at his left hip to be lowest, and channel listening guided me to the Urinary Bladder channel. Manual thermal diagnosis on his left leg indicated UB58 to be an active point, and the yang rhythm increased as I applied pressure to that point with my fingertip. His pulse was bilaterally deep, thin, and slippery; and he had very strong bilateral oketsu (blood stasis) signs. This pulse indicated hot fluids stagnating in the lower burner, and specifically to the use of a formula like Polyporus Decoction (zhū líng tāng). I inquired about any urinary symptoms, thirst, or dryness. He replied that he had been having some urinary difficulty, along with dry mouth and lips, and thirst since the onset of the flare up. This was interesting! I had an active bladder point, urinary symptoms, and a pulse that indicated a formula that moves hot, stagnant fluids out of the bladder. The strong oketsu signs also made sense in this context since blood will often heat up and become stagnant when the fluids become hot and stagnant. Additionally, this all seemed to relate very well to pain inside the shoulder joint which is full of synovial fluid, and the well-understood premise that blood stagnation can cause pain. 

Using acupuncture, I treated the left hip with left UB58, treated oketsu with Lv4 bilaterally, and treated the shoulder and neck with right LI11, and left GB41 and TB5. I also gave him Polyporus Decoction (zhū líng tāng) to take for a couple of weeks. Upon follow up, my friend reported that the squeezing pain in the shoulder joint completely resolved after a couple of days, and his neck pain returned to his prior baseline.  The urinary symptoms also completely cleared up, as well as the dryness and thirst.  

    The Engaging Vitality approach is all about listening to the body to see what’s showing up first, and then using Chinese medical theory to understand and make sense of it. There are so many theoretical relationships that this case made tangible for me, that I thought it might be interesting to share it. There is the contralateral relationship between the left hip and the right shoulder, the relationship between the fluids in the bladder and all the fluids in the body, the bladder organ and taiyang bladder channel relationship, and the relationship of interior blood disharmony and exterior pain along the taiyang areas of the body. 

One thing the EV instructors have repeated many times is that it’s more clinically useful to try to be helpful rather than be right. It would have been so easy to have given my friend an acupuncture treatment that used local points in the painful areas to release local stagnation, and then given him a formula like Cinnamon Twig Decoction plus Kudzu (guì zhī jiā gé gēn tāng) that theoretically addresses painful conditions in the neck. That might have seemed more right based on a symptomatic approach to treatment. Actually I found out later that my friend had taken a formula based on that approach with no effect. Polyporus Decoction (zhū líng tāng is actually a perfect fit in this context: it contains Alismatis Rhizoma (zé xiè), Poria (fú líng), and Polyporus (zhū líng) to move congested fluids, Asini Corii Colla (ē jiāo) to address the blood, and Talcum (huá shí) to cool. By listening first to my friend’s body, and then making sense of all the combined diagnostic information from the palpatory findings and the pulse, I was able to administer a treatment that was actually helpful and that also made sense within the context of Chinese medical theory.

Chip on Palpation as Practice

Palpation as Practice: Part I

Learning to palpate is a lot like learning to meditate. The two skills are similar enough that the road signs commonly used to navigate the meditation landscape are also useful on the path to palpatory competency.  I want to talk about palpation from this perspective. We should be clear at the beginning that they are different things, although there is most probably some cross over benefit in practicing both meditation and palpatory awareness. Most importantly you don’t have to be in a deep meditative state to palpate effectively.

Perhaps the most significant commonality between meditation, palpation and for that matter, medicine is that they are all practices. At the beginning, the expectation is not so much that we will be good at these disciplines as that we know how to practice them. They are skills that are cultivated over time. At least in terms of meditation and palpation, we don’t really know the limit to what it is possible for us to experience. 

In learning to meditate, sooner or later we will have a fleeting experience of open awareness. At this point, we can’t really say anything about it. Even acknowledging that it is happening, “hey, look at that, my mind is quiet,” is enough to derail the experience. The early stages of cultivating any form of palpatory awareness can be very much like this as well. It too, may be very fleeting, and just as you think you’ve caught it, it may be gone. Even once you are consistently feeling something, the experience will initially be pre-verbal. It is new and vague enough we have no words for it. Nevertheless, the process of progressively fine-grained articulation builds from this fundamental binary apprehension. I feel something or I don’t. 

After a while perception stabilizes, and we start to be able to look around. As we more consciously experience our experience, we are increasingly able to say things about what we are experiencing. In meditation we may simply witness the moment- to-moment play of our emotions. A common observation for palpators at a similar stage is “well definitely I feel something, but is that me or my patient?”  In more general terms, we might ask whether this input is self or other. Meditators spend a lot of time on the cushion trying to break down the bounds of self and other, just as we are cultivating a capacity to appreciate qi beyond the perimeter of our own skin. Yet, in both cases, no matter how effectively we extend our perception into our environment, we cannot really function without simultaneously being able to distinguish between what is outside and what is inside. 

Mindfulness meditation practices concern themselves with an examination of our internal environment and our responses to external stimuli of one sort or another. 

In learning any new palpatory technique, it similarly helpful to identify that phenomena in oneself. If you know what it feels like in your own body, it is easier to identify it someone else. It is also easier to tell whether that palpatory information is coming from you or your patient. For instance, what does your own yang rhythm feel like? Knowing that will help you to differentiate it from your patient’s yang rhythm.  You can also palpate an inanimate object. If you find that the treatment table has a yang rhythm then you either have a very special treatment table or you are feeling your own qi?” All this can take some time and experimentation to sort out for oneself.  The good news is that the difficulty in distinguishing between self and other fades with experience and generally becomes less of an issue with every new palpation technique you learn. 

Meditation is about learning how our mind in particular works and in using that insight to exert some productive control over that process. Although we all share a human nervous system, each of us is wired a little differently. No one’s palpatory antenna is without a few unique bends and kinks. Learning the quirks of our particular apparatus is an essential part of learning to appreciate qi. For instance, is one hand more sensitive than the other when listening to the yang rhythm or doing channel listening? Does it help cross-reference your findings by switching hands? Which hand is best for manual thermal evaluation and which for local listening. Our own acute or chronic injuries may influence the accuracy of our listening. Even problems in our ankle may influence how we stand, subtly influencing the way our hands receive information.  

Some days we may be able to sustain our attention and awareness on the cushion better than others. Its best not to label our meditation sessions as good or bad, we just practice. Just as it is counterproductive to beat yourself up when you catch your mind wandering, it is also unhelpful to fret over the fact that you’re not feeling anything. Just move on and keep practicing. 

Most experienced clinicians will acknowledge that their palpatory capacities vary from day to day, and even over the course of a single day. In meditation, pulse diagnosis, yang rhythm or general listening, our baseline competencies generally improve as we gain experience. We gradually get to the point where our palpatory input is clinically useful even on our off days. Some days we may be more confident in our local listening than in our channel listening. At other times the opposite may be true. We simply do our best to make use of whatever information we can glean at any given moment. Our receptivity is inherently variable for reasons including but by no means limited to our own competency. Sometimes our patients are just not communicating with us on a particular palpatory wavelength.  Cultivating our comfort in working with whatever information we have is a skill in itself. A key to all of this is to try with just the right amount of effort. If we don’t try seriously enough or often enough, we will never learn the skill. Yet working too hard will just as surely subvert the learning process. 

Once we are reasonably confident that we are feeling something, and that what we are feeling is coming from the patient and not ourselves, the issue is no longer whether we can feel qi but what specifically we should be filtering for. 

We will pick up this thread in a subsequent blog. 

Kailey Brennan on why study EV Part 2

2018 June

“A map is not the territory it represents, but, if correct, it has a similar structure to the territory, which accounts for its usefulness.”

— Alfred Korzybski, Science and Sanity 


    In school to study acupuncture and East Asian medicine, we start with the fundamentals. We study East Asian medicine’s understanding of the body. We learn about the pathways of the meridians, the concept of the Qi dynamic, the theory of Yin and Yang, the Daoist understanding of humans and their relationship to nature, as well as some of the cultural, historical, political, philosophical and spiritual ideas that influence and undergird this medicine. 

    If your education was anything like mine, you learned all of the specifics of acupuncture point location. Hours upon hours of memorizing point prescriptions out of the Chinese Acupuncture and Moxibustion textbook (CAM). Shang Han Lun, Jin Gui Yao Luo. The relationship of the five elements. 

    While in school, if we had enough sanity and bandwidth left over, we started studying the other systems that so many of us use and draw from today: Dr. Tan, Master Tung’s Magic Points, Kiiko Matsumoto’s clinical strategies, 5 Element acupuncture, specific auricular protocols, Jeffrey Yuen’s tradition, amongst the many others out there. 

    Practicing in more advanced clinics while still in school, I started to feel quietly unnerved. More times than not, patients did not come in with the sort of clearly defined patterns and diagnoses laid out in our TCM textbooks. Not even close. Sometimes treatments were successful, sometimes they were not, and it was very difficult for me to discern why this was. When a course of treatments didn’t seem to make much of a difference, privately I worried that I had gotten myself into the wrong profession.  Absolutely worst of all I was starting to become secretly blameful towards patients, critical of their lifestyle or questioning their desire to work in the service of healing. I was tasting the makings of burn out and I wasn’t even out of school yet. 

    I could theorize and read up and draw on my understanding of East Asian medicine, sure. I could try different point prescriptions, balancing different meridians, working both local and distal style acupuncture. But I wasn’t sure if I was just telling myself some kind of elaborate, made-up story. People and their bodies are so unique and they present with such diversity. They can’t even begin to be encapsulated and described in all of the textbooks and medical theories and treatment systems in the entire world. Plus, I’m a very tactile person and I needed a grounded, perceptible and detectable way in the clinical encounter to discern if my treatments were having an effect. 

    So much of this is to say, and I’m coming to discover this more and more everyday working with the Engaging Vitality material, that the map is not necessarily the territory when it comes to the practice of East Asian medicine. They are useful and necessary and very helpful, but they can’t completely outline, nail down, and describe every person, condition, and presentation that walks into our clinic. Having a glimpse of this reality in school was terrifying for me. Very gradually through my involvement with the Engaging Vitality work, this has become very interesting and actually almost exciting. 

    Maps are very useful. Navigating through parts of Denver I’m unfamiliar with, I would be in big trouble if I didn’t have the Map function on my iPhone. It even lets me know in real-time which sections of I-70 or I-25 are backed up due to traffic or an accident. It’s an indispensable tool for living in a city, one that I would struggle without in very real and tangible ways. It saves me valuable time and energy each and every day. 

    Similarly, I am very reliant upon my maps in East Asian medicine. Distal style treatments, 5 Element acupuncture, strategies that I’ve picked up on from the Japanese tradition, continuing studies in pulse, tongue, and abdominal diagnosis. The maps I studied in and after acupuncture school and continue to study are incredibly valuable and I utilize them regularly.

    But the human body is so incredible and diverse and mysterious. Textbooks, theories, teachings, protocols, and prescriptions are all very necessary and useful. But from what I have learned and am continuing to learn and discover everyday is that they are only capable of outlining the tip of the iceberg. When a patient comes in to see me for the first time and however many times after, it is so very interesting, compelling, and undeniably useful to try to engage the patient’s own qi in a dialogue and try to understand what the patient’s qi is asking for in that moment, opposed to placing or imposing my map or system or treatment strategy on that patient from the get-go. 

    In the Engaging Vitality work, we orient with this understanding that the human being is a functional unit comprised of body, mind and spirit, and that the body is capable of self-regulating and healing. Many of the ideas come from the osteopathic tradition here in the West, and they in many ways synthesize very agreeably with our understanding of East Asian medicine. In the Engaging Vitality work, we think about using all of the tools we have developed in East Asian medicine - acupuncture, moxibustion, e-stim, and so forth - to work in the service of supporting and encouraging the body’s innate capacity to self-regulate and heal. 

    Part of working in the service of the body’s healing mechanisms is understanding when you’ve given the body more information than it can adequately process in a treatment session. This is commonly referred to as “over-treatment” in the practice of acupuncture. And in Engaging Vitality, we have some very useful, immediate and direct ways of discerning if a patient is nearing over-treatment: the pulse becomes disorganized, the Channels start to feel buzzy, the tongue may develop more defined teethmarks, and the body’s fluids will start to feel like a thick, viscous liquid, like molasses. This is an incredibly valuable tool to have for more reasons than need mentioning. 

    And that doesn’t even begin touch on the usefulness of the Engaging Vitality work. Old injuries, strains, and ailments can lead to tension, constriction, and systemic disharmony in the body. With the Engaging Vitality tools, we can start to actually discover and pick up on this through our palpation skills. You come to learn that acupuncture points and very often channels may not necessarily be in the exact location that they were outlined in the texts. Recently having taken the Visceral Course, I’m starting to cultivate a tactile understanding of why we say that the lungs are responsible for the function of “descending and diffusing” in East Asian medicine. I’m continually discovering why certain acupuncture points are given their very unique, interesting and oftentimes perplexing point functions as outlined in Peter Deadman’s Manual of Acupuncture text. I might have certain preconceptions about what is going on for a patient based on their constitution, presentation, and main complaints, but those preconceptions might be completely vaporized once I start doing an examination.

    The map might not necessarily be the territory, and this is good news for me. Learning the Engaging Vitality tools and mindset has helped me to be curious and interested in the face of ambiguity, complexity and confusion, as opposed to fearful, anxious, or feeling overwhelmingly impotent. It is incredible to think that as practitioners of East Asian medicine practicing with the Engaging Vitality material, in addition to all of the information we can glean from our pulse, tongue, and abdominal findings, there is this ability to receive so much palpatory information from our patient’s bodies and their qi. This information can help us come into dialogue with a patient’s qi, get feedback in the clinical encounter if we are truly working in the service of the body’s innate capacity to move towards healing, and helps us to more elegantly address, while holding a very large and open perspective and an appreciation for the wisdom of the body, the reasons why patients are coming to see us for treatment. Practicing the Engaging Vitality work helps me to more skillfully, attentively, and reverently practice my values and serve my entire reason for getting into East Asian medicine in the first place - to help people and to help people feel better.

Why study EV? by Kailey Brennan

Here is an excerpt of a wonderful letter Kailey sent for EV in 2017, describing what we do. 

Engaging Vitality is a acupuncture and palpation workshop developed and taught by Dan Bensky, Chip Chace, and Marguerite Dinkins. In addition to being longstanding practitioners of Traditional East Asian Medicine, the instructors have extensive training and expertise in osteopathic palpation methods, including visceral manipulation and craniosacral therapy. Engaging Vitality is the product of their many years of deep engagement, study, and practice of these various traditions. 

I believe Engaging Vitality has something very unique and valuable to offer to acupuncturists. Beyond the ability to improve diagnostic skills and and grow in clinical competency, Engaging Vitality teaches a way for the fundamental concepts of East Asian medicine to come to life in our handsIt is also a chance to study with and learn from three very generous and encouraging high level practitioners with a deep respect and appreciation for this incredible medicine we get to practice. And on top of all that, it’s a lot of fun. 

Thank you for taking the time to read this e-mail and I hope to see you in Boulder this fall. 

All the best,

Kailey Brennan L.Ac. Denver, Colorado