Article written for the James Bay Beacon

I am a founder member of the Victoria Community Health Co-operative, and of the Wellness Clinic, offered on a Sunday, near the end of most months of the year. I donate my services at those Sunday clinics most times when they are offered, except for rare occasions when I am elsewhere.

In July of this year, 2018, I will have been in practice as an osteopathic practitioner for 30 years. It has been, and continues to be, an interesting journey. I feel very blessed to have been able to make my living from working with people, in ways that are effective and meaningful, for the clear majority of those I have had the good fortune to serve. I have never stopped learning in these many years – not just in terms of the anatomy, physiology and life force inherent in every living being I treat, but also just about Life itself.

It has, however, always been a challenge to give an accessible explanation for the sort of work I do with patients. And while for most people, after we have begun to work together, explaining the mechanisms behind my work is less important, I have included here my current iteration of a description of my work:

The work I do with my clients/patients encompasses two fundamental things:

  1. finding subtle means to reflect back to people’s unconscious minds the sensory information necessary to re-engage their self-healing capability, and;
  2. helping people (for children and animals, this is partially via their care-givers) “get”, mostly at the unconscious level, what needs to be understood – bio-mechanically, bio-energetically, and sometimes on even more subtle levels. Where appropriate, I then point to what they can do to discern and listen more closely to their body signals, and how they might make decisions more in harmony with those signals.

In other words, it is seeing what the “guidelines” for healthier living are (whether they are universal, and/or specific guidelines, dictated by unique, individual circumstances), and giving physical feedback, and more overt suggestions, on beginning to align decisions and actions with those guidelines.

The work is gentle, subtle and respectful; and is my pleasure to offer.

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Solo show (with Friends) at Gorgeous Coffee – Thursday, Nov. 23/17

This is the poster for the show I’m doing tomorrow night. Please note the line about parking in the lot just behind Gorgeous Coffee, OR, at Imperial Hallmark Cleaners, close by.

Please do NOT park behind the El Greco Restaurant. Thank you!



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Access to my New Practice, at 1756 Gonzales Avenue

My partner, Karen, and I are now moved into our new place, at 1756 Gonzales Avenue. I am recommencing practice from this address as of Monday, November 6th.

The clinic entrance is around the back of the house, through the second sliding glass door. My sign from the Shotbolt address will be near that door to indicate the entrance. The animals I treat on Monday mornings should also be brought around the back of the house.

If you need to park as close as possible, please pull into the driveway in front of the garage. The pull-off space in front of the sidewalk up to the front door is meant only for those people who need to be dropped off, or who have significant mobility challenges. Our landlord, who lives directly across the road, has a strong preference for that pull-off only being used by those patients who really need it. If at all possible, I would appreciate folks, who can do so, parking a little further up the hill, on Montgomery Avenue.

The MapQuest photo, below, is from May 2015. There are no longer rocks along the roadside in the pull-off spaces, but you can see how residents have been discouraging parking there for years.

Thanks so much for your cooperation on this.

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Update: My Home & Practice are moving soon.

My partner, Karen Ledger, and I have been looking for a new place to call home, and for me to run my practice from, for some time now, since our 2.5 year rental contract at our present home finishes on December 31st, 2017. We’ll still be in our place at 1907 Shotbolt Road until the end of this month, of October, but from November 1st, 2017 onwards, we’ll be living, and my practice will be, at 1756 Gonzales Avenue. The postal code there is V8S 1T7. The rest of our contact details will remain as before. Closer to our move date, I’ll be posting information regarding parking and access to the practice space.

Here’s a picture of where we’ll soon be moving to:

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How Understanding Polyvagal Theory Can Help

This relatively new understanding of the Autonomic Nervous System (ANS) – called Polyvagal Theory – can allow most adults, but especially parents, teachers and health professionals to assist children, students, patients, and ourselves, toward greater wellness.

Most people will be familiar with the long-held view of the ANS as a continuum between just two ‘poles’: the Sympathetic Nervous System (SNS) at one end; and the Parasympathetic Nervous System (PNS) at the other. In that earlier understanding of the ANS, there was the common assumption that the SNS referred to the person’s “Fight or Flight” response, while the “Rest and Rebuild” response occurred as a result of PNS function. While there is truth in those associations, they were not fully accurate, for two main reasons: 1. The view was lacking the fact that Fight or Flight is a stress response, while Rest and Rebuild is a normal response; and, 2. the under-pinning of our most highly evolved human behaviours come neither from the SNS, nor the PNS, but from what psychiatrist Steven Porges called the Social Vagal (or Ventral Vagal) that we’ll get to in a moment.

This three-part, or triune, layout of the neural circuits of the ANS has evolved as a phylogenetic heirachy. In other words, we share the Parasympathetic part of of our brains autonomic functions with more primitive animals (lower in the phylogeny). Then later in the evolutionary chain of biological development, the alertness and readying-for-action abilities of the SNS developed. Then most recently, only in higher mammals (and most especially in humans) were the most complex and inter-relational functions and responses conferred  by developing the Social Vagal Nervous System.

In both normal functions and stress responses, physical, mental and energetic expressions can come from anywhere in this heirarchy of ANS function. In the varying circumstances of normal everyday life most of us can move smoothly between and amongst the three stages of ANS patterns. In the case of historical trauma that hasn’t been fully processed, like PTSD, however, there is likely to be some fixation, or interruption in that smooth flow.

In stressful circumstances (from novelty to outright threat) we will use our newest, most evolved strategies, first (check in with others, provide love, comfort, touch, empathy). If that doesn’t work, (or hasn’t typically in the past) however, we’ll move to the alarm, fight or flight, discharge type of reaction. If that does not work, we revert to our most primitive and final strategy, which can progress from immobilization to deep depression, to parasympathetic shock.*

From having some understanding of Polyvagal Theory, and how all of us, as humans, move smoothly from one of these stages of response to another (or how we sometimes don’t) we have very useful tools to work more compassionately with ourselves and everyone around us. I highly  recommend the book I have named and given a link to below, to parents, teachers, health professionals and humans in relationship…


*Most of this article is based heavily of the excellent summary of Dr. Porges’ work, written by John Chitty in Chapter Six of his book: “Dancing With Yin and Yang”

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My Worldview, and its impact on my osteopathic practice

This writing is off the top of my head, in the short hour before needing to submit this as an article for the next edition of WellnessNews in Victoria, BC. I share that only because it also speaks to what I wish to share here, which, amongst other things, includes something of how my mind works.

On the latter point, I ruminate on things for days, sometimes more, aware that something is taking shape behind the scenes. I don’t really know exactly what the result will be, nor what it will look like, but I can feel its weight, its shadow, its posture, sometimes even its range of motion. Then the writing down happens in a quick flow, with very little editing or shaping at all.

So, what is surfacing this time is about the bouncing I do, between worrying about the destructive trends going on all around us, and the excitement I feel regarding very encouraging things I can feel unfolding – in myself, and in many other people and phenomena around me.

I was at the library a short while ago, where I picked up a copy of a book called, “Who Rules the Earth?”, by Paul Steinberg. You can watch a 10-minute video, summarizing that book’s message, also called Who Rules the Earth?  by the same author, here:

More on the whole project of purposefully Changing Rules can be found by clicking on the link.

All of these resources that Paul Steinberg points to demonstrate both the evidence of how far humankind has strayed from ways of being that enhance Life Itself, AND, also what is required in order to truly have an impact on how things could be done in much more respectful and gentler ways, in the wider sphere. As Steinberg says, “Recycling Is Not Enough”.

What does this have to do with my practice as an osteopath? Well, the work I do with my clients/patients encompasses two fundamental things:

1.  finding subtle means to reflect back to people’s unconscious minds the sensory information necessary to re-engage their self-healing capability, and;

2. educating those people regarding what needs to be understood, bio-mechanically, bio-energetically, and sometimes on even more subtle levels, what they can do to discern and listen to their body signals, and to make decisions more in harmony with those signals.

In other words, it is seeing what the “rules” for healthier living are (whether they are universal, and/or specific rules dictated by unique, individual circumstances), and beginning to align decisions and actions with those rules.





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On Addiction – What Is it, and What to Do

I am realizing that I have an addiction to distracting myself – mainly via Facebook in recent times. In the excellent talk by Dr. Gabor Maté that I have provided a link to, below, he asks, and answers, the question What Is Addiction? He says that all addictions are simply ways/attempts to relieve ourselves of pain/distress.

I have watched Part 1 of this video a couple of times before. It is  only a little over 3 minutes long, and it is an excellent overview of his message. I would, however, strongly encourage you to watch Part 2, also, as I just did. It is over 18 minutes long and is a TedX talk he gave in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. It truly is one of the best TedTalks I have ever seen. And given how many excellent TedTalks I have seen, that is really saying something.

So, back to me and my own addiction. The truth is, I don’t know the exact origin of my own personal pain. There were challenges and traumas in my growing up years, to be sure. But in comparison with many people I have met over the course of my life – not all of of them patients, but also friends, family members, colleagues, and acquaintances – what I remember of my past seems trying, but not extreme. What I can not argue with, however, is the clear evidence that trauma has occurred, and that there is a marked impulse to distract from the pain of it.

Now in both parts of the talk by Maté, he speaks directly of, and quotes others also advocating for, the need to simply Be With the Pain. All addiction is essentially trying to run from the suffering, and the “surest way to Hell is to try to run from it” is the gist of one those quotes.

How does one Be with the Pain? How can I do that? Well a couple of things are crucial. The first, is what I am doing here, now: admitting it is a problem. Secondly, anyone who has identified their addiction will need compassion and support (from themselves, and others) to choose, over and over again, to Be with that Pain. Unfortunately it helps not at all for others to point out that (I’m) “You’re doing it again”. That just ends up being perceived as shaming and blaming – whether that is what was intended, or not. Recognizing instead that there is some sort of pain that I am trying to evade, and having compassion for that process, feels very supportive.

So, this writing is a reminder to myself to let my own pain be registered; to let it land. For me, that means taking breaks from online time, so that there is the space to let my mind rest. Only then can I be with my own pain. Today I spent all afternoon in the garden, raking leaves and cleaning up. That worked well for me.

I am also reminding myself here, that as a practitioner, and simply as a fellow human Be-ing, I can be compassionate with the addictive attempts by others to deaden or distract from their pain. Now of course it is easy to become an enabler of the addictions of others. But unwavering Love and Compassion can be firm and holding, while not collapsing.

There is, of course, so much more that can be said on this subject. This much is what I needed to share here and now.


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