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Meet Dr. Liliane Papin,Lic. Ac., D.O.M, Ph.D 

An Interview with Shawngela Pierce

 

To start with…what does “East West Holistic medicine” mean?

Dr. Liliane PapinThe East-West connection represents a big part of my interests and studies. I am French, living in the States and lived in Japan for 6 years, studying Buddhism, making many trips to China to study Qi Gong. That’s the beginning of the East West connection! I really see myself as a citizen of the world and the medicine I like to practice is a bridge between different cultures, between East and West. Voilà…

I also think we are at a very exciting and unique point in history where our modern technology actually validates the ancient models of medicine such as Chinese Medicine. Microscopic imaging for example does reveal the “wood nature” of our nails and our modern knowledge of liver functions validates its Tree nature in Chinese medicine, as you can see in the pictures.This double East West aspect is also relevant to my practice.I use microcurrent technology together with or instead of needles for people who are scared of needles. This technology, combined with the meridian principles and understanding of Chinese medicine, is a great tool and gives fantastic results.

Western tests are great to see where there are deficiencies in minerals or vitamins. I certainly do not reject those tests, on the contrary. However, I think that, linking them to traditional tools of assessment such as pulse or tongue diagnosis, you get more accurate pictures. The Chinese medicine model helps determine for example, that if there is a vitamin D deficiency, you also need to look at liver functions. Otherwise, you get people diagnosed with low vitamin D levels even though they spend hours in the sun or take supplements. If their liver is not functioning properly, if the “Tree” photosynthesis is blocked, no amount of supplement will remedy the situation.

 

We often talk, nowadays, of the “mind-body” connection. If you deepen symptoms beyond the physical level, you will always discover or bring to light an emotional and spiritual aspect. We think this is a modern finding but it is already completely embedded in the old Oriental medicine model that considered emotions as a major factor of illness. Each organ system in Chinese Medicine is associated to a positive emotion that sustains it or a negative emotion that depletes it. Gratitude and satisfaction for exemple nourish our Stomach, spleen and pancreas as much as good food. Chronic worry, bitterness and obsession, on the other hand, are forms of acid reflux of the mind and will affect our Stomach and Spleen negatively. On a spiritual level, our Spleen represents our connection with the Earth, its food and water and our ability to integrate lessons on the heart plane. “Digestion” also refers to the way we digest challenges and events in our life.

Finally, Oriental medicine offers an ecological model of medicine, meaning one that integrates the human body within the natural world. What hurts our planet hurts our bodies. When we cut forests and deplete our air of oxygen, our lungs suffer. When we spoil our water with toxins, our kidneys and those of the planet suffer. The word ecological did not exist but it is completely there. in the Chinese medicine model where the liver is called “tree”, the stomach “earth” or the kidneys water. Unfortunately many practitioners today fail to see that connection and they bypass the importance of organic food for example. Many TCM practitioners also fail to address diet issues altogether although diet is central to the Yellow Emperor, the classic of Chinese Medicine.

 

Chinese medicine has undergone many changes along the centuries. The Chinese imperial culture has impregnated its medicine for example in the very hierarchical understanding of the functions of different organs for example, the Heart being the monarch”, the “Liver” the general of army etc. While this might be helpful sometimes, I think we need to question some basic tenets that come from culture or politics. Chinese medicine in the last century has certainly rejected much of its own knowledge about the role of emotions or spiritual practices in health. Communism has left its imprint So, if you want to study and integrate the spiritual level, you will have to turn to Tibetan medicine for example. Vietnam, Korea or Japan have all given particular flavors to the practice of Chinese medicine. The root is the same but the tree has branched out in many directions. I lived in Japan and have studied Japanese philosophy quite a while, especially in regard to nutrition and its influence on health. I prefer that model to the present Chinese one. The Koreans have developed a very sophisticated system of hand acupuncture. The French have developed ear acupuncture. These are all aspects I integrate.

 

It actually started a long time ago and I did not follow a straight path. As a child, I remember being attracted to Oriental art and design…I would always choose an Oriental motif on birthday cards.

Then I came to the United States as an exchange student, studying literature. I was in Madison, Wisconsin and absolutely loved it. So I applied for a PhD program in literature and theatre. At some point, the only class that fit my schedule was an “East Asian Theatre” intro. The class was taught by a fantastic man and true master, Dr A.C Scott, who was in his seventies. He had lived in China for over a decade, spent quite a few years in Japan, traveled to Bali and various places in East Asia and had published several books about the Noh theater, Balinese puppet theatre and the Pekin opera. It was a revelation on all counts: spiritual, philosophical and artistic. Dr Scott required that all his students study tai chi intensively…2 hours a day, 6 days a week for 3 months. That was a prerequisite to being on stage and working with him. I jumped on the opportunity and discovered the art of tai chi, which we did wearing a mask, “to warm the body and cool the head”.

After Dr Scott passed away, I drifted from theatre and transferred my interest to the principles of health. I started with macrobiotic philosophy, which I also studied intensively for 12 years, mostly with Michio Kushi in Boston. I went to Chinese medicine school to study herbalism and acupuncture. Then I studied the old principles of Daoism regarding nutrition and fasting and discovered the work of Dr Cousens in the “raw” food movement. My practice of Chinese medicine is not mainstream and differs considerably in terms of nutrition for example from what is typically considered standard “Chinese diet”. I include much of modern research into food therapy. I have also done much research in old Taoist texts and found that there is much controversy about the use of grain throughout the history of China.Taoists of old saw agriculture as enslavement and grain as a source of “Gu” disease which would correspond to what we term candida, yeast or parasites. So the tradition of rice itself is not as solid as we think!

We need to find that fine balance between being true to a tradition and daring to update it and change it. Otherwise we act like parrots and miss the opportunity to deepen and think for ourselves.

That is what I like to do in my own practice.

 

The community clinic is built upon the Chinese model of treatment with acupuncture in the sense that you have several reclining chair in the same room. It enables low prices and affordable treatments on a sliding scale…in my clinic it starts at $20 if people get a series of 5 or $25 if single with a range of $20 to $50. People decide what they want to pay and leave their money in a money box at the door. It is based on trust and community. This model started in the US a few years ago and has gained quite a momentum. I have to say that, at the beginning, I was not convinced of its validity as I feared that acupuncture treatment would become a technique. However, I have changed my mind on that. It is a perfect environment and solution for people who suffer from a simple pain and need to come back for treatment…like shoulder, knee or elbow pain where you do not really need extensive medical history. The same thing applies to headaches, menstrual cramps etc. The work of someone like Dr Tan in the US has also enabled that kind of approach by revealing and bringing very efficient acupuncture techniques to the West.

However, I still think that this model does have limitations when a problem is complex, when I need to have a complete history to come to some kind of balanced diagnosis or if I need to get people on a more complex regimen of herbal therapy for example. However, even then, I sometimes ask people to come for an initial private session, followed by treatments at the clinic once I understand the overall pattern.

I have also widened the community clinic concept to include other kinds of modalities such as acupressure, reflexology, essential oil treatments, micro current therapy without needles or even short consultations for herbal recommendations.

I am lucky that a very talented woman whose name is India, helped me design the clinic space. Everyone invariably comments on how beautiful it looks. I also have a wonderful assistant, Bethany, who helps me with files and the day to day functioning but does much more than that: she does foot massage, she has learned much about acupressure points so that she can offer short treatments or at least begin a treatment with techniques that do not include needles.

A truly community setting and effort

 

Not at all. We actually met in the US at a sesshin, a silent zen meditation retreat, held in North Carolina. I have to admit that we cheated and spoke some that first time! He was already a chef but was working in a local restaurant that did serve vegetarian entrees, but did not at all specialize in any kind of health approach to food. That is an aspect however that he was looking for and he did not feel satisfied with his job and knew there was more to food. I was teaching macrobiotic cooking classes at the time, so he attended. His first gift to me — a sort of courting gift, was to sharpen all my knives and offer me a sharpener. He was a true chef. I was not!

 

Absolutely…and I hear that all the time from my patients and clients. It is disheartening since many vegetarians are actually encouraged to going back to eating meat by their practitioners. As if there had not been a strong tradition of healthy vegetarians in China or the Orient! on many grounds, whether health, spirituality or compassion for animals, vegetarianism has a very strong and long history in the Orient. Old Buddhist texts clearly advocated vegetarianism. Buddhism originally comes from India where vegetarianism was a way of life for most people. Vegetarian monks in particular were reputed for living long lives. Vegetarian zen buddhists were also martial artists and hard workers. The same goes for monks at the Taoist Shaolin temple who are reputed for their physical fitness and martial arts training. The old taoists warned against the danger for the body of “bloody food. They also use herbs to purify and strengthen their bodies and mind…which is all part of Chinese medicine.

For raw food, of course, much has to do with explaining the word “raw”. Oriental people are surprised to learn that they actually do eat a lot of raw food, even more so than their Western friends! they have stores full of fermented foods while we basically have only sauerkraut. They also know not to boil miso for example.

 

There you go…that is usually the answer meaning that the word “raw” is misleading for many. Fermentation is one way to transform food without heat. It would be better to talk about low heat or no heat cooking.

Of course, you also have the sushi tradition of raw fish that the Japanese have brought to an art. While this is not what I would advocate today given the contamination and levels of mercury in the oceans or the ecological and humane aspect linked to the worldwide fashion of sushi today, it certainly does illustrate that the raw tradition is hardly foreign to the Orient. You can even find old Taoist texts that recommend raw food as the supreme way of eating for enlightenment. Anyway, there is so much confusion about this that I am working on a video to show research and clarify many misconceptions in the TCM world. The present Chinese diet, or even the one followed in the recent historical past, is hardly the diet recommended by old Taoists.

 

For one thing, the Chinese medicine food therapy tradition such as it has transferred into macrobiotic for example together with its herbal tradition offer fantastic tools to be successful in your choice of diet.

In my practice, basically, I work with where people are, showing the way toward better health and solving health issues. Hardly anyone today will argue with the fact that our modern diet of heavy meat, dairy and poor quality fats as well as sugar is a major cause of obesity, heart problems or diabetes. That’s the first place to start. I do think that a vegan diet is the best for health and for our ecology. I am a student of the raw diet because it makes sense to me that cooking destroys nutrients. I think it is a movement in its infancy with many mistakes and many discoveries yet to me made. The one designed by Dr Cousins seems to me the most solid at the present time with its low glycemic but I have doubt about the use of erythritol or xylitol for example and think that they are probably more harmful than a reasonable use of local fruit for example. In other movements, the heavy emphasis on chocolate or dates seems rather childish to me, as an excuse for indulgence…however, these differences and experiences are part of the path.

Basically we all need to think for ourselves. We are all overwhelmed by the amount of information and what is supposed to be good or bad for you. Even studies are unreliable given the fact that they are commercially sponsored.

So if people are intent on eating meat, I encourage them to minimize its use. I also typically recommend transitioning to better foods…whole grain as opposed to white grain, good quality oil as opposed to hydrogenated oils. I ask everyone to stop sodas and white sugar though, as these should belong to the category of drugs, not foods. They are catastrophic for the health of the brain as well of the body. But even then of course, people have to decide for themselves and make the effort to study and get information.

 

Yes, of course. My husband and I do that together. I use Oriental medicine as a fantastic tool to guide you toward what to eat and how to live because things become simple and clear with that model. I have studied nutrition in various ways for over 30 years and I have blended that knowledge with Oriental medicine. I made videos on the “three treasures” of Chinese medicine, for example, on Kidney, Liver, Spleen, Lung and Heart health linking theory and practice, another one on Alzheimer’s , demystifying the disease and showing that it is a “diabetes of the brain” like doctors have started to call it…all of that is available on my website. My husband also has e-books on recipes in the making. He is a very practical guy and he likes simplicity and things that can work in everyday life. I encourage people to take advantage of all of it.

We are really blessed to live at this time in history. So much is available, so much is possible on all levels. We have access to meditation techniques and medical traditions from all over the world. We have amazing technology and resources available through computers or local libraries. We can access information about our planet and its ecological needs like never before. We now have access to a very solid body of study in psychology and psychotherapy with the work of giants like Carl Jung. For all of its shortcomings, inequalities and dark sides, our world is also amazingly rich in knowledge and resources today. It is up to us to take advantage of it. It is there for us in our journey to physical, mental and spiritual health. I feel I am part of that journey. I am a seeker myself…so is my husband and offer education in that spirit of discovery.

 

My website describes the kinds of services I offer. Online health coaching and health assessments are part of it. If they are local, people can of course book an appointment or come to the community clinic. Otherwise I am available for Skype or phone consultations. Amazing technology again, you see!

 

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