Local practitioners healing philosophy reflects global living

by: Eliabeth Ussher Groff, In her treatment room at Cypress Day Spa in Westmoreland, Elie Cole practices Chinese medicine, including acupuncture, Chinese herbal therapy, massage therapy, and Qi Gong meditation instruction.

This reporter had never experienced acupuncture, so when I was offered a treatment by Chinese Medical practitioner Elie Cole, I accepted the offer.

At Cypress Day Spa, located in an elegant old home at SE 16th and Bybee in Westmoreland, Elie offers massage therapy, acupuncture, Chinese herbal therapy, dietary advice, and Qi Gong meditation instruction. Additional practitioners in the building include an esthetician, a hair stylist, and three other massage therapists.

Any hesitation I had about getting acupuncture was overcome by Elie's encouraging remark. 'I like to offer a treatment that you can enjoy and savor.' She explained that the treatment includes what she calls 'talk time and table time'.

'Talk time' included information about Chinese Medicine in a PowerPoint presentation - her 'educational flip chart' - and time for personal discussion of health issues.

'Table time' began with a soothing shoulder and back massage on the massage table. The second part of 'table time' involved acupuncture. As the inch-long, double hair-width needles entered my skin, I felt a slight prick in several of the spots and almost nothing in others.

A combination of an infrared lamp for warmth, and Elie's comforting presence, did indeed make it a pleasant experience.

Having lived in West Africa several decades ago, this reporter was intrigued with Elie's background and travels as a university student. Six semesters in Global College (then called Friends World College) enabled her to live in Costa Rica, Panama, India, Nepal and Ghana. Elie's love of writing and storytelling led her to keep copious journals. As part of her undergraduate studies, she wrote a one hundred page portfolio each year.

With these four years of 'experiential education' under her belt, Elie returned home and became a licensed massage therapist. After several years of practice she felt limited in her ability to address her clients' overall health needs, so she enrolled in Chinese medical school. She started the four-year graduate program in San Diego, then transferred to the Oregon College of Oriental Medicine in Portland. 'I wanted to be able to offer my patients more options for healing,' she says.

After four years of studying, she wrote her Masters Degree thesis on the use of Chinese Medicine to modulate the side effects of chemotherapy.

Elie sees herself as a facilitator of wellness, 'because ultimately we are our own healers'. Her approach to healing and nourishing the body, mind and spirit reflects her global perspective.

The many cultures that have rituals for transitions in life fascinate Elie. In addition to practicing Chinese Medicine, she loves to work with people who are in transition, or are being asked to transform their lives. 'I have done wedding, divorce and name-change ceremonies, as well as grief, sobriety, and birth rituals.' She has studied extensively with the West African woman Sobonfu Some, who is well-known for educating people in the western world about how rituals relate to our personal and community lives.

The following interview provides some interesting and colorful descriptions of 'non-western' medicine, which is increasingly in demand and can be found in many corners of our own local neighborhoods.

The BEE: How would you describe acupuncture?

Elie: I like to use a modern day analogy to describe this ancient theory. Imagine a highway system, with on and off ramps. The meridians that run down your arms and legs and back and head are like highways. Acupuncture points all along those highways are like on-ramps and off-ramps. Pain or imbalance can be compared to rush-hour traffic. Inserting a needle in is like opening an off-ramp to allow cars to get off the highway thereby decreasing the pain. The more traffic that gets cleared out of the way, the more efficiently the blood and energy can flow through the meridians.

The BEE: What are the benefits of massage?

Elie: In addition to the obvious relaxation and stress reduction, it benefits the lymphatic system, which I think of as the 'garbage collector' of the body. That system gathers up cellular debris, travels in the blood, then the garbage goes through the lymph nodes and gets recycled or dumped.

Massage helps stimulate that garbage dumping process.

The BEE: You asked me the question: 'Where is the mind in your body?' Why?

Elie: If you ask people in our culture, they almost always point to their head. If you ask this question of a Chinese person or a Tibetan, they point to their heart. People here often have very stressful lives because they use their head too much and don't pay enough attention to their heart. Qi gong is a meditative form which can help us drop down out of our heads.

The BEE: Why did you want to look at my tongue?

Elie: I like to think of the tongue as an ancient MRI, a tool of diagnosis. It provides a way of looking inside the body. You can tell a lot about a person's health by looking at the color and coating of their tongue.

For more information go to www.nourishthyself.com, or call Elie at 503/860-8998.