Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Interview with Cara Michele Nether- Acupuncturist

One dictionary meaning of acupuncture is:
The practice of inserting thin needles into the body at specific points to relieve pain, treats a disease, or anesthetize a body part during surgery. Acupuncture has its origin in traditional Chinese medicine and has been in use for more than 5,000 years.

1. What does acupuncture mean to you?
For me, acupuncture is a way to help myself and my clients to balance out the flow of energy between the mind, body and spirit. It's as much about my relationship and connection with my clients as it is about the about the needling and the points that I choose.

2. What interest you in becoming an acupuncturist? I understand that there are different styles of acupuncture practiced in the US, what style do you practice?
In beginning I really did not have the desire to become an acupuncturist. I went to Tai Sophia Institute for the Healing Arts because of their Taoist and Confucianism philosophy training. I knew that I really needed that training for myself. There are many different styles of acupuncture taught around the world I would say I was trained mostly in five element acupuncture with some focus on TCM. After graduating I expanded my knowledge of acupuncture incorporating some scalp acupuncture and auricular acupuncture.

3. Share with us what you feel are some of the benefits of you've found in acupuncture?
Personally, acupuncture has transformed my life. I would say I'm a much smoother and even-keeled person since I began acupuncture treatment probably 10 or 12 years ago. I used to have fairly severe back problems which I no longer have. Oriental medicine in general has taught me a lot about nutrition and and lifestyle choices that just make my life a lot easier and more joyful.

4. Please share with us a defining moment for you in your acupuncture studies?
As a student, I learned a lot about the power of relationships and healing. I had a teacher who took the time to know me and understand me as a person and use that information to help guide me to change some habits and thought patterns that were not serving me. I also had a teacher who did not get to know me as a person and have a one size fits all teaching style. These two examples were really poignant and helped me understanding the power as well as the necessity of taking the time to get to know my clients on a deep level.

5. Explain your philosophy of acupuncture and your approach.
My approach and philosophy towards acupuncture treatments and my clients is pretty simple. There are five main belief structures that my treatment sessions are based on. First, we must always maintain a balance between the yin and the yang. This means that just as the sun rises in the morning and sets in the evening we have to figure out how to intentionally maintain both sides of the coin in our everyday life. So when we play we have to have rest and when were out talking to lots of people we have to have quiet solitude time. Number two, mind body and spirit all connected. If there is an issue on one level, it will manifest on another level. A favorite example of this is an ulcer. We can have a burning sensation in our stomach maybe because we've been worrying and stressing over a situation that we can't control. Most Western medicine physicians will give you medication to ease the pain in your stomach which is often very helpful. The thing we have to remember is that the pain is a manifestation of a mental health situation. There is something going on a mental level that is manifesting in our stomach on a physical level. Understanding this concept allows us to look for the real reason that we are having physical pain. Number three, we are all born into this world with gifts and passions. It is my belief that it is our job as human beings to serve each other and to receive from each other. If we do this we will have a smooth and joyful life. If we don't, our spirit will lack ease and that will manifest as illness. Number four, humanity needs self-aware female leaders and healers to bring balance to our patriarchal society. Number five, by learning through experience the best foods and exercise for our own individual bodies, by experiencing the benefits of shifting the internal conversations concerning our true desires, self-worth and possibility for prosperity, women will be able to let go of the many day-to-day struggles that hold us separate from our true roles as leaders and healers. My acupuncture treatments and conversations with my clients are based on these belief systems.

6. I understand that you are also train others in acupuncture. What influenced you to want to teach others the art of acupuncture?
I am trained to teach lay people how to use an auricular acupuncture treatment protocol through the National Acupuncture Detoxification Association. This is a five-needle protocol designed for the ears that is used all over the world for substance abuse and stress management. As a student at Tai Sophia Institute for the Healing Arts, I had the honor of working with people challenged with substance abuse concerns. It was a life-changing opportunity that allowed me to learn firsthand the power of facilitating the balance of the yin and yang in the mind, body and spirit. A few years after graduating I created an organization called Ear Acupuncture Resources that offers information and training around the use of the five-needle protocol. Over the years it's been an amazing experience to watch clients become stronger mentally, spiritually and physically and also to see how grateful the counselors have been to have another tool to support the people they work with.

7. Who inspires you in your craft?
I would have to say my clients inspire me the most. I've had many clients make incredible shifts and changes in their lives. Many of them have let go of mental and physical habits that they have had most of their lives in order to move towards a more peaceful and enjoyable life where they are contributing as well as receiving. Growing outside of our comfort zone and changing is rarely an easy thing to do. Watching them make their transformations fuels me to learn more and grow within myself.

8. Why would you recommend someone get started with acupuncture?
Oriental medicine in general says that we have energy flowing in our bodies. If our energy is not flowing smoothly then we will have illness on a mind, body or spirit level. The job of acupuncture is to open up and move any blocks that are keeping us stuck. That's stuckness can show up on the mind, body or spirit level. The acupuncture needles ask the energy to come to a place where the energy is lacking or to disperse from a place where there is an excess of energy. Sometimes we know the changes that we want to make and yet we can't get going. Acupuncture is a great modality for helping to kickstart new thought patterns and behaviors because it can relieve any blocks that may be obstructing our movement.

9. What do you find most rewarding about being an acupuncturist?
As an acupuncturist I get a front row seat as I watch my clients transform as they walk through their lives. I see myself as a partner to the women I work with. As they walked their own path I'm four steps behind them. Every once in a while they turn around and we have a conversation about going left or right. When we combine the fact that I have taken the time to get to know them with my knowledge and continued learning about the human body, women's health issues women's social issues and energetic medicine, I can make offerings and suggestions that are pertinent to their individual goals and desires. Ultimately they make the choice themselves and we continue the journey. We all need a pit crew waiting in the wings and it is my honor offer that so many women.

10. What advice would you give to someone aspiring to be an acupuncturist?
My first bit of advice would be to take the time to learn about the different styles of acupuncture and how they're going to teach you to relate to your clients. Point choices can be learned from a textbook. True healing is based on relationships. My second bit of advice would be to understand what benefits you want your practice to offer to you. So many people in the healing professions focus solely on what they want to give and never give a thought to what they need to receive and I believe this is an out of balance mindset. Because I have talked to so many people with passions and gifts, but who never create the practice that they desire or that can sustain their livelihood, I have designed a practice development course designed to help open up the conversation around the exchange of giving and receiving from a business perspective.

11. Do you feel acupuncture has motivated you in other areas of interest in your life?
I think in order to be really good at anything you choose to do, it needs to filter through and penetrate all the layers and levels of your life. So much of my acupuncture training and practice influences all aspects of my life. My clients are going to think twice about participating with a practitioner who doesn't eat right, doesn't exercise, doesn't get enough rest or doesn't have a balanced life. As Gandhi has pointed out, we must be the change that we want to see in the world.

12. While in graduate studies you worked as a crisis counselor. How did working with crisis clients influence you as you moved forward in your career?
The greatest lesson I learned as a crisis counselor was the fact that there are so many people out there in the world who don't believe they have support. This is not to say that they really didn't have support and resources available to them. The point is that they didn't believe that they had any support. This experience helped me to become clear that one of the most important things I can do as a healing practitioner is to offer a space for my clients to feel welcomed and listened to.

13. Do you feel that acupuncture can help people in crisis? If so, how?
The modality of acupuncture itself is extremely useful for helping to settle the mind and heart when we're in distress. And as I've mentioned the power of knowing that you have a true partner who is dedicated to listening and supporting you is unmatched when you really need it.

As a woman of many interest….

14. You started a business call "Women in Wellness" with the tagline of Bold, Brave and Brilliant. What prompted you to start this business?
When I graduated from acupuncture school I was challenged by my business coach to get clear about the gifts and services that I truly had to offer my clients. So I went back through some journals and writings and remembered my passion for helping women see their power and potential. Even though I didn't have a model to guide me it became clear that I needed to create an organization that would help women to be bold enough to say that they truly have dreams of their own, be brave enough to walk towards those dreams and to be brilliant enough to not let everyday obstacles stand in the way.

15. I understand that the Women in Wellness Center offers various services. What other services do you lend your expertise to?
Wellness in Wellness has three practitioners. I provide acupuncture services. We have a personal coach who supports clients to pay attention to their inner conversations, knowing that what we think is exactly how our life will turn out to be. We also have an herbal medicine and nutrition practitioner who works with people who are interested in using herbs and food to help heal themselves. All the practitioners provide workshops around their expertise. We also invite outside practitioners to come in and offer services and programs for our clients and the community.
I also offer classes that may seem a little bit odd for women's empowerment and that is the practice of aikido. Aikido is a martial art that focuses on bringing healing to any given situation versus violence. The study of aikido is a physical practice that teaches us how to be peaceful in our everyday mental and spiritual lives. Aikido offers a great workout where we are challenged to learn about our strengths, fears and the possibilities what of our bodies can do. Because we are using our partner's energy to shift the attack instead of physical force aikido it is a wonderful martial art for women.

16. How do you feel the things that you have studied and now offer all come together to help others as well as help you grow?
Whether we believe so or not, all the people, places and things of our lives are connected to each other. All of my past experiences, the different jobs and careers that I've had over the years, all the people that I've met, all the mentors that I've worked with, all the workshops that I have attended for personal growth business growth, all the clients I've worked with, all of aikido training that I have attended, comes together to make me the person that I am today. I use my past experiences to help inform me when I'm making choices for myself today as well as the offerings that I provide to my clients.

Interesting tidbits about Cara Michelle…

16. What is normal day like for you?
I think that rhythm is extremely important in helping us to maintain balance lives. So I begin and end most of my days the same way. I think that the latter end of the rising portion of the morning is one of my favorite parts of the day. So I get up most mornings around 5 AM. I take that time to walk my dog, wake my body up with a little stretching and exercise, and to set my intention for the day. I will also take a look at my schedule and decide how I would like to show up and move through the day. Making sure I get a good breakfast and plenty of clean water seems to also help me interact with the circumstances that show up in my day with ease.

I end my day with a similar type of attention. Because I know that my body functions best on eight hours of sleep I tend to go to bed around nine o'clock in the evening. During the summer I seem to function quite well on less sleep so I may go to bed a little bit later in the evening. At night I intentionally quiet my mind body and spirit by reviewing my day either by writing or sharing with my partner, looking at what lies ahead for me the next morning and stretching to relax my muscles before I lay down. Gratitude is a very important practice to me. Both in the morning and in the evenings I will reflect on the opportunities for growth and learning.

My work days are filled with opportunities to practice connecting and sharing with others. Whether I'm seeing clients in my office, working with professionals learning to use a auricular acupuncture, speaking at a women's conference, writing an article for a women's magazine or sitting in a planning meeting with the Women in Wellness team, I'm always refining my ability to communicate clearly effectively and appropriately. I'm clear that my ability to connect has a direct effect on my ability to impact multitudes of people.

17. If you had to suggest one book that you have read in your life that was a vital tool, what would it be?
If I had to pick one book that shifted my life the most it would be James Hilliard's The Soul's Code. That book offered me an image of human beings growing down from heaven that will always influence my heart. The author suggests that we come to this world with an intact destiny and that the role of parents and mentors is to guide us through the open doorway that allows us to remember and embrace our true path. Not many of us grew up with parents, mentors and guides that recognize this as their role. As a leader and a healer, I take on this responsibility with great vigor.

18. What book is currently on your night stand?
I set a goal for myself to read 12 books in 2010. I am a slow reader and I pretty much only read at night, so this is a big challenge for me. I have a few books on the spirituality of aikido by authors like William Gleason. I also have books on acupuncture, one in particular by Dr. Gary Dolowich. Some practical books on wellness by authors like Dr. Andrew Weil and Dr.Christiane Northrup. Two books that I can't seem to put down are Book Yourself Solid by Michael Port and the E Myth Revisited by Michael Gerber. I'm never too far away from Success Magazine and the Success Book Summaries.

19. What is currently heavy in rotation in your ipod/mp3 player/cd player?
Because I think it's essential to continue learning throughout her lives and I'm a slow reader who doesn't take a lot of time to sit still and read, I listen to a lot of information on my iPod or on CD's. Each edition of Success Magazine comes with a CD interviewing some of the people who are featured in the magazine. The Success book reviews also come with CDs and I listen to them daily. Currently on my iPod I have podcasts from Dr. Andrew Weil, Christiane Northrup and tips from The Public Speaker. Some of the authors that I have on my iPod include Pima Chodron and Alice Walker, Larry Winget, Marianne Williamson, T. Harv Eker, Steven Covey, Charles Seife, Eckart Tolle, and Sun Tzu. I also have a series of biographies including Emelia Ehrhardt, Bette Davis, Jackie Onassis, Cleopatra, Pocahontas, and Joan of Arc.

20. If your life had a theme song what would it be?
The phrase theme song has me stumped. Even though I might not resonate with every word here are a few songs that I really get my spirit moving. Goapele: Closer, Idina Menzel: Defying Gravity, Madonna: Jump and Deva PremalN: Embrace.

21. Studies have shown that color evokes emotion as well as tells you a lot about a person. If you were a crayon in the box of 120 crayola crayons, what color would you be?
I would probably pick a primary color: red, green or blue. It's important to me to be who I am and yet be flexible to mold into what's needed.

Are there any encouraging words of wisdom or favorite quote you would like to leave with our readers?
The rest of us are counting on your courage to be yourself. - Cara Michele Nether

Interview with Felicia Pride- Author of The Message: 100 Life Lessons from Hip Hop's Greatest Songs

1. How long have you been writing? When and why did it all begin?
I've been writing since 2000, so for ten years. It began really because I was bored at my day job. I was working in marketing at Panasonic, fresh out of college. And I was bored. I thought it would be my dream job, but it was far from it. So I started writing as a way to fight boredom and get things off my chest. But in high school and college I had teachers who urged me to study writing, but I didn't think it could be a viable career.

2. What inspired your first project?
My first major project, THE MESSAGE, was inspired by my relationship with hip-hop music. I wanted to show the power in the music and how we could learn from it. As a writer, I also wanted to show the literary brilliance of hip-hop's greatest MCs.

3. What genre of books do you write? Are there any other genre's you may consider?
I write fiction and nonfiction. I'm pretty open within those two areas. I am actually pursuing other types of writing such as screenwriting.

4. Do you have a particular writing style?
A lot of my writing is personal in that I insert myself into the conversation of my piece.

5. Who or what has influenced your writing?
MCs, James Baldwin, my mother, Maryse Condé, musicians; the list is pretty long.

6. What has been the most rewarding part of being an author?
I'd say being able to lift my voice and insert myself into a national and even global conversation.

7. What is the most important lesson you've learned in your writing career?
Pursuing one's passion can make the difference between happiness and misery

8. Sharing life lessons with others is a great way to inspire and motivate others, why did you choose 100 of Hip Hop's Greatest Songs as your tool?
Music is a universal language. We use music to help us in so many ways—articulate our feelings, describe our worlds and times, motivate us, entertain us—so I thought that it would be a great connector to look at life lessons. And it's proven to be a great connector. Through my company, BackList, we've developed an enrichment program that uses hip-hop as a tool of engagement to promote literacy. We've had the pleasure to facilitate this program around the country and in many locations around Baltimore.

9. As not only an author but also a speaker and facilitator, what is the most rewarding thing you get from your speaking engagements?
Connecting with young audiences. It's always a pleasure to meet brilliant, energetic young people. They remind me of my younger self. They give me hope. They push me to be better.

10. What characteristics do you feel are most important for speakers and facilitators to develop?
It's important to be comfortable in front of all types of audiences. It's important to be engaging and to be able to interact with your audience, to have them participate and feel like they are part of your program.

11. In 2004, you developed an organization called Backlist. Tell us a little about it.
BackList began as a literary advocacy organization, now we're a media, entertainment, and education firm that produces and engages in a range of initiatives to enrichment programming development to independent films. We've worked with book publishers, nonprofits, creatives, big corporations. We consult; we write; we create; we speak. We're online at

12. What words of wisdom would you give to an aspiring author? Speaker/facilitator?
You have to write. Every day. I still struggle with this, but now I'm at my best when I follow this rule of thumb. As a speaker, you have to practice. Get in front of audiences, even if you're not being paid early on. Perfect your speaking style and content.

13. If you could have one author as a mentor, who would it be? Why?
Greg Tate

14. What is normal day like for you? What do you do daily to stay motivated and keep your creativity flowing in your craft?
A normal, productive day begins with me writing for two hours. Then I send the rest of day working on various projects, business development, and marketing.

15. What book is currently on your night stand?
How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents by Julia Alvarez

16. If you had to suggest one book that you have read in your life that was a vital tool, what would it be?
The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

17. What words of wisdom would you give to an aspiring author? Speaker/facilitator?
Don't underestimate the power of faith + action

Interesting/fun things about Felicia…

18. What is currently heavy in rotation in your ipod/mp3 player/cd player?
The Roots' new album How I Got Over.

19. If your life had a theme song what would it be?
Oh, that's too hard to answer. My theme song is constantly changing.

20. Studies have shown that color evokes emotion as well as tells you a lot about a person. If you were a crayon in the box of 120 crayola crayons, what color would you be?
Brown. Always.

Interview with Poet Tara Betts

1. What was the first poem that inspired you?

I've been a lifelong reader so I'd have to say the earliest poets I remember reading and seeing—Maya Angelou, Langston Hughes, Paul Laurence Dunbar, and Ntozake Shange.

In my hometown, we had annual black history programs where girls would often memorize Angelou and Hughes so they would have to be my first poets with poems like "Phenomenal Woman" and "Mother to Son".

2. Who is your favorite poet/s? Why?

My favorite poets would be Lucille Clifton, Patricia Smith, Marilyn Nelson, and Wanda Coleman. Lucille Clifton was one of my early teachers, and she was encouraging in so many ways. She was also a master of being concise and making her point with an amazing last line. Patricia Smith has a gift for capturing voices, whether they're in her books or she's reading them out loud. Marilyn Nelson is a master of poetic form and the breadth of her historical knowledge. Wanda Coleman because she's a versatile and prolific yet singular voice. Nobody sounds like Wanda Coleman, or any of these other poets.

3. If you could have a conversation with a poet, who would it be? What 2 questions would you like to ask them?

June Jordan. If she were still alive, I'd like to ask her about how young writers motivated her large body of work. I'd also ask where she would think young poets need to be doing and writing in these urgent times.

4. What does poetry mean to you?

Poetry has been the medium that always clearly unlocked the images that I would see in my head. Often that's where a poem begins for me. An image conjures up the idea or the point I want to make, and the poem is a concise, original way to help see and feel the image, and what it conveys, clearly.

5. What type of poetry do you write?

I write all types of poetry—free verse, historically-based, narrative, formal, lyric, persona poems. I think it depends on what works for the poem.

6. What is your creative process like, atmosphere, etc?

It varies. When I lived in Chicago, I often wrote on "the el" (the elevated train) because I had long commutes to teach. Now, I find myself writing in my living room. Sometimes, I put on some music or turn on videos. Other times, I just want to write outside or in a coffee shop. Sometimes, I write with my students in class.

7. What is your definition of creativity?

Creativity is a way of inventing a perspective informed by various sources of inspiration and the need to be unique and crafted.

8. On a typical day, how do you record your thoughts?

I usually just tote around a composition book and try to write every day. I prefer black ink. If I write longer work, like essays or blog entries, I always type that. It just feels right to write the poems with a pen and paper.

9. What inspired you to publish your poetry?

Ever since I was a little girl, I've wanted to write books, and I've always loved books. So, in a way, it has always been my dream job, even though it is hard work. Putting your work in a book also documents your words and helps them travel where you may not be able to go.

10. You're not only a poet but a spoken word/performance artist, what influenced you to perform?

Performance, and bringing the energy of performance to a poetry reading, engages people who may not be fans of poetry and reading. Remember I grew up hearing girls recite poems, so it meant that I couldn't just write it if I wanted people to really hear my work. At first, it was scary to me, but then I realized that sharing the work would help reach people who needed to hear it.

11. In addition to being a poet/author, you are also an educator, what valuable advice do you share with your students from your experiences?

Read and keep reading your whole life, not just poetry either. Read history, fiction, the classics, health, science. I also think it's important to travel and take care of your health. There are a lot of authors and artists who do not take the best care of themselves, and it just slows you down. I also think challenging yourself to write about what you're afraid to write, write about topics that you've never written about before, or write it in a different form.

12. You've performed in Eve Ensler's play "Vagina Monologues", what impact do you think the play has had on society as it discusses such an important topic?

I think the play has raised awareness about violence committed against women and helped powerful women meet each other and find ways to work together and address that violence. On a more personal level, I think "Vagina Monologues" has made it more acceptable for women to affirm and accept their own bodies. There's so much in the media and so many people that point out everything flawed with women, and women's bodies are not made to fit the standards of one way to look.

13. You have also appeared on "Def Poetry Jam". How do you feel "Def Poetry Jam" has been significant?

I think "Def Poetry Jam" was a good experience for me to have because I got to meet more people, but it's one experience. I often meet people who think that television and fame is the main goal for our lives. Television is really just another way to share your work. You still have to keep creating new work and improving on yourself

14. Your list of accomplishments and influences are both impressive and inspiring. I wanted to take a minute to focus on one in particular, Girl Speak, tell us a little about these workshops.

GirlSpeak is a program that I co-founded at Young Chicago Authors with several other women who saw a need to mentor women into leadership positions and being more outspoken. The girls often made up the majority of the classes, but were not always outspoken or critical of instances where girls were being overlooked or discriminated against. So, we did writing workshops and other activities to encourage the girls to speak up on a variety of issues that they deemed worth exploring, including body image, street harassment, and the visibility of young women in the arts. Now, years later, the GirlSpeak is still in operation and they have an online journal.

15. If you had to suggest one book that you have read in your life that was a vital tool, what would it be?

Deep Sightings & Rescue Missions by Toni Cade Bambara

16. Tell us what we can expect from Tara Betts in the future.

Right now, I'm finishing my second collection. I'd like to do some nonfiction writing and a children's book or two. I'm working on co-editing an anthology of Bop poems with poet Afaa Michael Weaver. I'm hoping to be open to doing writing on a variety of topics in all kinds of venues, whether it's on CDs, in museums, overseas, or anywhere.

Interesting tidbits about Tara Betts….

17. If your life had a theme song what would it be?

It depends on when you catch me! I could say "Be" by Common, but it might really be "Love and Happiness" by Al Green or "Diva" by divinity roxx.

18. What is currently in heavy rotation in your ipod/mp3 player/cd player?

Erykah Badu's "New Amerykah Part Two: Return of the Ankh", Anthony Hamilton's "Comin' From Where I'm From" and the Blackroc collaboration produced with The Brothers. I'm about to get Janelle Monae's "Arch-Android". Stevie Wonder, Prince, India.Arie are also spinning around in there.

19. What book is currently on your night stand?

I keep a couple of piles of books next to my bed! Right now, I just finished reading Christian Campbell's Running the Dusk. Some other poets I've been looking at include The Heart's Traffic by Ching-In Chen, Ceremony for the Choking Ghost by Karen Finneyfrock. I've also been reading some nonfiction, including Silent Spring by Rachel Carson.

20. If you could visit any place in the world tomorrow without concern with expenses etc where would you go? Why?

I'd visit Pablo Neruda's house in Isla Negra in Chile. Neruda is one of my favorite poets, and I plan to see it at least once in my life.

21. Studies have shown that color evokes emotion as well as tells you a lot about a person. If you were a crayon in the box of 120 crayola crayons, what color would you be?

I thought about blue because it seems to be a centering, calming color for me, but I also considered purple and yellow orange since they seemed like rich, sensuous colors. The first one that popped into my head was sepia because it has that earthy, vintage shade of brown.

Are there any encouraging words of wisdom or favorite quote you would like to leave with our readers?

These days, I often find myself quoting Lucille Clifton more than ever, probably because I am missing her. I think of this ending of one of her poems: "come celebrate / with me that everyday / something has tried to kill me / and has failed." But I also keep thinking of this short poem:

"Why People Be Mad at Me Sometimes"

they keep asking me to remember

but they want me to remember

their memories

and i keep remembering mine.