Dr. John Aguilar, Jr, DAOM, EAMP

Archive for 2012|Yearly archive page

On the Role of Clarity of Perception and Health

In General on December 6, 2012 at 10:28 am

A fundamental cause of disease is the behavior of not paying attention. When we’re not paying attention, our minds create their own version of reality and we have no way to check or verify it. We, thus, lead lives according to “free creations of the mind” rather than the world around us. This can only lead to illness.

The article below is a great – simple and concrete – example of this phenomena playing out. The mind’s version of events – in this case, memory – beats out the actual experience, thus leading to unhealthy eating behavior.

Where you want to get to the root of disease – *truly* get to the root – the mind and the clarity/accurateness of your perceptions must be included in “treatment”. This is the foundation of my practice of Chinese medicine. john@DenverChineseMedicine.com for questions and comments.

Hours After A Meal, It’s The Memory That Matters (NPR, 12/6/12)


A Missing Key in Disease Prevention: Daily Self-Treatment with Acupressure

In General on August 16, 2012 at 12:25 pm

Life is constant change. When it comes to wellness, there’s ceaseless fluctuation between better and worse health. Some days and weeks, we get better sleep, eat a little more healthy, and feel pretty good. Other weeks, we’re too busy to eat as well, too stressed to get good sleep, and, well, we feel a little off. Up and down, back and forth, that’s just the way it goes.

Ideally, we would always swing back to health quickly and completely. However, the wide spread presence of disease and illness would suggest that we all too often swing too far to the side of being “off”, and end up getting full-on sick.

The idea of prevention is to keep that dynamic between better/worse health close to the center. That is, to stumble, but never fall down, when it comes to those less-than-healthy habits, and always quickly get back up, and back to, doing and feeling well.

We all know that a good diet and exercise are absolutely key to maintaining health and staying away from getting knocked down by illness. There’s another key piece, though, that gets very little attention – daily self-treatment.

Self-treatment differs from exercise and good diet in that it can directly combat illness. It can engage disease when disease is in the very early stages, when it’s just budding. Such self care is right at that line between health maintenance and treating sickness, and when performed daily, it can beat a thousand illnesses before they ever even slow you down.

What’s meant by “self-treatment”? There are different types, but, per my bias, I would suggest acupressure. Acupressure is similar to acupuncture, but without the needles. You stimulate the same points and get some of the same effect.

Both acupressure and puncture are based on a medical system that recognizes an interior/exterior connection between the internal organs and the surface of the body. Acupoints are specific places on the skin where the state of internal systems can both be read and regulated.

Acupuncture is a professional therapy where the practitioner assesses the state of health, then stimulates acupoints with needles to treat illness and help the body back to health. Acupressure can take advantage of this same system and fight minor illnesses, while preventing others, every day.

There are hundreds of points on the body and, with a little study, you can learn which points are associated with each internal system and are good for specific issues. For instance, if you have breathing or respiratory issues, you could use some acupoints on the lung channel. If your digestion is off, you could try stomach or large intestine points.

Perhaps you know you tend to certain types of illness. Maybe you find yourself panicking easily. Treat the heart channel everyday and find more emotional stability. Or maybe you have a diagnosed illness that could use some daily light therapy. Mild high blood pressure? Try acupressure for a couple weeks to help keep it under control.

Acupressure is not a replacement for medical care. It can simply be part of your daily regimen to maintain health and fight disease before you need that professional care. It can help you stay closer to that balance point of feeling and doing well.

I speak from personal experience, here. I have hundreds of hours in acupressure training (above and beyond my formal acupuncture training), and I have used it with patients and in my own personal self-treatment program. It works for all kinds of ailments from headaches, to indigestion, and a full range of mental/emotional troubles.

I’m such a believer I’m offering a full day workshop on acupressure. We will cover basic Chinese medical theory, including acupoint and channel theory, as well as dozens of specific points for disorders. You’ll learn enough to do basic self health assessment and treat all kinds of issues. Of the hundreds of points, you’ll be able to put together basic self-treatment sessions to address any internal system.

This workshop will be held Sunday, September 9th, 10am to 5pm, at my offices in Denver – 930 Logan St., Ste. 101, Denver, Co, 80203. The cost is $95 (registered by 8/31) and includes an acupoint reference book (in addition to detailed handouts).

The flyer is available for download on my website – www.DenverChineseMedicine.com

You can send questions to me at john@DenverChineseMedicine.com.

Here’s to your health!

Low-cost, Walk-in Acupuncture Clinic in Denver, Colorado

In General on August 15, 2012 at 11:39 am

Announcing a new low-cost, walk-in acupuncture clinic in the Capitol Hill Neighborhood, in Denver!

Bridging the gap between the high-quality medical care acupuncture offers and the often prohibitory cost of treatment, this new clinic offers one-on-one, private acupuncture treatments, conducted by an experienced, licensed and board certified acupuncturist for $30 – no appointment necessary!

For full details please visit:


For questions contact john@DenverChineseMedicine.com!

The (Almost) Unspeakable Truth of the Effect on Clinical Outcomes of Fundamentally Different Medical Perspectives, Part I

In General on July 2, 2012 at 11:11 am

Chinese medicine views things in a completely different way than modern biomedicine. This is one of those truths that is very difficult to get across, yet so, so very important.

So often, I’m asked whether Chinese medicine treats this or that disease, e.g., “diabetes” or “hypertension”. Though a fair question, it is impossible to answer because those words refer to a disease label that reflects a certain way of perceiving a person suffering.

Diabetes, for example, is not inherent within a person; nobody, truly, has diabetes. That term is simply one way of conceptualizing, or thinking about, the suffering of a person, and that “way” of thinking is rooted in the ideas and theories of the current times.

Chinese medicine has a different way of thinking about suffering, illness, and health… This is extremely important, but, unfortunately, as important as it is, it is exactly that difficult to communicate. It is so difficult because we all think in the “way” of the modern times without realizing that that is just a “way” of thinking; it isn’t the way things are.

For instance, it’s not whether or not someone has diabetes. There is no argument between modern medicine and Chinese medicine as to whether such a diagnosis is correct. The term, itself, the disease, itself, is a creation of the “mind” of biomedicine. It does not exist outside of that mind, or way of thinking.

Yes, the person so labeled is suffering; that is real. However, the interpretation of that suffering can vary widely, depending on the system of medicine you choose, the specific “way” of thinking you apply in assessing the patient.

Many times, modern practitioners of systems of medicine that are not biomedicine (such as Chinese medicine, Ayurveda, etc.) contort and alter their system to look like modern medicine. For instance, there are acupuncturists that will tell you that such and such an herb is “good for” diabetes. This is so very tempting because that word, diabetes, is known by people. It makes communication infinitely more simple when familiar words are chosen.

However, the practitioner separates themselves from the truth of the situation. They make statements that are not supported by their system of medicine. They compromise a certain integrity for making such statements. It’s extremely tempting but also very risky. What they have said is heard, but it is not actually true (1).

For the patient out there seeking treatment, be aware that systems of medicine are different. It’s not just a matter of determining which hormones are out of balance – this practitioner says these, while that practitioner says those. It’s a matter of even thinking about the body in terms of hormones and chemicals. That is just one way of analyzing, categorizing, thinking about disease. It is not the only one.

This may be difficult to truly understand or accept, but if you can, then, literally, a whole new world opens up. Diseases may be difficult to treat, from within one system of medicine, one way of conceptualizing disease. However, if you can come at things from a completely different perspective, then who knows? You may be promised that there’s no way of altering your liver enzymes, and that may be true, but what if you could look at things in a way that doesn’t even incorporate liver enzymes?? Keep in mind, they aren’t “real”, outside of the system of thought behind them (2).

This happens over and over in Chinese medicine. We see the person in a different way, treat them from that different perspective, and they get better, even though chemicals, nerves, etc. never even came into the picture. (Of course, from an MD’s perspective, it’s likely chemicals were altered. That is, that’s how they would interpret the results of treatment…)

Chinese medicine is different. This is a difficult fact to convey and understand, but, if you can, if you can allow for truly different perspectives, you can access a whole new world of potential for health and healing.



1. Within the last couple of decades, there has been much research into the use of Chinese medical modalities, such as acupuncture, herbal, etc., into the treatment of biomedically defined diseases, such as diabetes. Therefore, statements such as “this herb is good for diabetes” are becoming more and more credible. However, the strength of these statements, i.e., the degree to which they are based on evidence, is still profoundly less than those statements that are more authentic to their respective system of medicine.

Also, research is slowly beginning to explain the effect of acupuncture via theories of modern times, e.g., biochemistry, neuro-anatomy, and so on. Again, however, though such explanations are easier to hear than traditional ones, they are far less reliable, far less accurate. Too much compromise, in my opinion, is made when we use terms of one system to try and describe another.

2. This may, also, be extremely difficult to swallow, but it’s a very simple, very obvious thing. What is “true” and “real” is beyond the rational, thinking mind. All we can do is generate explanations – We come up with stories to explain things. We, then, test that story, and alter it based on the outcome, thus, creating the illusion of “getting closer” to truth, but as Albert Einstein pointed out, we are forever left guessing what’s actually going on:

“Physical concepts are free creations of the human mind, and are not, however it may seem, uniquely determined by the external world. In our endeavor to understand reality, we are somewhat like a man trying to understand the mechanism of a closed watch. He sees the face and the moving hands, even hears it ticking, but he has no way of opening the case. If he is ingenious, he may form some picture of a mechanism which could be responsible for all the things he observes, but he may never be quite sure his picture is the only one which could explain his observations. He will never be able to compare his picture with the real mechanism and he cannot even imagine the possibility of the meaning of such a comparison.”
– Albert Einstein, quoted here from Lonny Jarrett’s ‘Nourishing Destiny: The Inner Tradition of Chinese Medicine’, p.13, originally from Einstein and Infeld ‘The Evolution of Physics’, p. 31

So, in medicine, it’s not about how the body actually is, what’s really going on, what the true diagnosis is; it’s about ideas of all the above that will lead to the patient getting better.

In following, it’s not about which system of medicine is right or correct. It’s about the usefulness of their given approach. The proposed usefulness is based on evidence. Modern medicine emphasizes clinical trials to demonstrate the reliability of their approach. Chinese medicine emphasizes the collected clinical experiences of over a hundred generations of physicians. Each approach has their own strengths and weaknesses.

The point of this article is that there is real clinical value in acknowledging systems that vary from our own. This is made easier when we’re released from the idea that absolute truth is achievable through mental process. Once so liberated, we can look, simply, at what is right in front of us and determine how useful one approach may be, versus another, for the problem at hand.

Honesty in discussion of acupuncture effectiveness and what constitutes “evidence”

In General on February 16, 2012 at 11:41 am

From my Facebook Fanpage, regarding an article published on the website Medscape.com, titled “Integrative Medicine Use Up, but Outcomes Still Uncertain”, by Daniel M. Keller, PhD.


A good article and critique, beginning under the sub-heading “Is Integrative Medicine “Little More Than Quackery?””

I kinda wish we could all sit down and actually discuss these things, instead of throwing articles (and fb fanpage posts) back at each other…

We need to begin with honesty and forthrightness. Acupuncture does not have equivalent modern scientific research behind it, compared to much of what is incorporated in modern biomedical care.

Isolated, however, that statement suggests that acupuncture is without medical value. That is not only *not* contained in the above, but is actually counter to what modern, scientific research there *is* out there (never mind all the other types of evidence…)


There is research demonstrating effectiveness of acupuncture (search “research” on my website www.DenverChineseMedicine.com). The critique of acupuncture research is that the studies, often, haven’t been replicated, and that many times when compared against a placebo, they only do as good as the placebo.

This is where things get complicated. There is the argument that a therapy should do better than a placebo before it’s used with patients. That has a certain logic behind it, but it’s very important to realize what’s not being said or even addressed…

That line of thought, as with so much of modern research, gets caught up in mental debate, academic intellectualizing, to the point of missing the original point – does the therapy help people get better? Or, perhaps, as important for the medical practitioner, how does it compare against other therapies? That is, in the actual clinical setting, an MD isn’t debating whether to give a patient a sugar pill or a pain killer.

Research should aim to address the basic, “real world” question of whether the medicine helps people and how it compares to other potential therapeutic interventions.

And, no, it is not this simple, not exactly. Like I said, things get complicated pretty quickly…

For instance, all this discussion ignores one of the main reasons I got into the medicine – the profound, unparallelled body of evidence it does have behind it.

Chinese medicine has been in practice, treating actual patients in real clinical situations for thousands of years. Over this time, it has accumulated tremendous experience and wisdom in understanding illness and intervening successfully.

Those in power seem to discuss, and dictate what is discussed, that worldview and perspective that serves their unique strengths, while downplaying, if not out right ignoring, competing theories and ideas. Importantly, it’s rare where all things are brought to the table in a truly equal manner.

For instance, the evidence behind acupuncture and Oriental medicine, has been reduced down to that type which is most cherished by the dominant modern medical paradigm, not all evidence, but that which is deemed best by those in control and power.

I submit that Chinese medicine has a distinct advantage in evidence, over modern biomedicine. According to basic, agreed upon logic, it takes pretty big numbers to claim a therapy works. That is, interventions need to be tried on lots and lots of people, with the results being seen over and over, before any conclusions as to effectiveness can be made.

And that is exactly what Chinese medicine has. In spades.

By definition, Chinese medicine (alternately “Oriental medicine”) is that system of medical care that has been in continual development over many centuries. Chinese medicine is, literally, defined by the fact that it is the accumulated experience of billions of patient interactions.

In comparison, biomedicine is extremely young. It is, in fact, defined – quite proudly – by its youth. Its biggest claim is of being the latest and newest, i.e., the youngest.

The debate of amount and type of evidence is a very interesting one…

All this, and I have yet to mention the idea of “prevention”. It is all but impossible to “prove” something was prevented, i.e., didn’t happen because of an intervention… It would take a whole lot of patient interactions, repeated over tens, if not hundreds, of years to make any claim of preventing illness.

And guess what.


The Problem With “Is” and the Death of a New Future

In General on January 4, 2012 at 4:39 pm

Nothing is.

I know, I know, obvious, but it took a quantum physicist to really get this point across to me. (David Bohm, if you’re curious.)

That’s one of those truths that is simultaneously counter-intuitive, obvious, easily defended with logic, meaningless, and profound… yeah, all at the same time – love those quantum physicists!

The really quick explanation/argument for it is that:

1) Any way of rationally knowing or defining anything is limited to some description of it, some listing of characteristics, for example.

2) Everything is in constant flux. Literally, everything is constantly changing (remember, it took a physicist to really get this across to me).


3) However you describe something, saying what it “is”, that description is gonna fail to some degree, because that which you’re describing is constantly changing, i.e., evading capture by your description. Nothing actually “is”, as can be rationally known, described, explained, etc.

Yeah, we could go down a looooong road of picking this apart, arguing, perhaps, that a description isn’t the thing described (agreed), but, for all intents and purposes, I mean, we really treat things, discuss them with friends, write about them, think about them, etc. via some description. This is how things exist to us, practically speaking.

And that has specific application, clinically. Otherwise, I wouldn’t bother bringing any of this up.

So often we resist change. I see this with patients, when discussing change in their habits, lifestyle, behaviors, etc. And, if you look closely, I’m sure you’ll see this basic issue pop up all the time, in your life, in the news, etc.

When a topic comes up and there’s a possible alternative that may be strongly counter to the status quo, a lot of times the argument against that alternative is that this “is the way things are”, or “this is the way the world is”.

For example, diet habits can be extremely difficult to change. So often, poor dietary practices are a result of limited time in the daily schedule. On first approach to this issue, I’ve often heard that there’s not enough time and that’s just the way it is.

There are numerous potential examples, but they all have the core theme of resistance to change because of a staunch assertion that the way things are is “the way the world is”.

Now, enter the physicist. He would argue that, technically, that basic point isn’t true. Technically speaking, you’re only describing the way things have been. Maybe they will continue, but, strictly speaking, there is no “is” to the way things are.

Life is constantly changing, maybe in small ways, maybe barely noticeable, but fluctuation is the only constant.

And that means the way things “are” may be a useful way to think of them, but the reality of ceaseless flux means things are up for alteration.

The “death” of a new (better) future occurs when we choke it off by insisting old patterns, old ways of being, repeat into the future.

Some would argue we – literally, consciousness – are at that pivot point between “was” and “gonna be”. We are the “now”, and, in the now, maybe you can exert some control over how things change.

We’re not making change happen, here. That’s just the nature of existence. We’re simply helping direct and guide the nature of the change.

Interestingly, we’re already doing this. We’re already influencing the future by being the now.

We just, typically, don’t consciously realize this, so our influence is lost, minimized.

Worse, yet, we may even be guiding the future to repeat past bad habits/situations by simply believing that the way things were is how they will always be!! Crazy.

Ultimately, there’s deep, profound even, potential for liberation, here. It doesn’t matter how horrible your situation is. I, with the backing of Dr. Bohm, guarantee it will change (with the caveat being perhaps for the worse, but Hey! even that will change.)

I urge you to take the helm. Consciously assert your presence at that pivotal point of Now and do your part to make a better future.

Close Your Eyes in the New Year

In General on January 1, 2012 at 12:17 pm

Do things a little different this year.

We’ve become very accustomed to using our eyes to take in information. There is a very close connection between vision and rational analysis, between taking in data from the world around us and thinking and analyzing. This is so often what we base our decisions on and how we go about making those decisions. In a very real, concrete way, this is how we create the life we lead.

This year, try closing your eyes.

Instead of taking information in from the outside, go within and project what you perceive directly outward to the world around you.

It’s actually kinda radical. Instead of basing decisions of what we do with our life on what we see and think about in the world out there, close your eyes and feel inside, then project that out to the world around you.

It’s like the old switch-a-roo. Instead of letting the external dictate the expression and activity of the internal, let direct awareness of the internal guide your life. Instead of reacting to the world out there, tap in to yourself, and let that be your guide.

This year, let you shape your world, not the other way around.