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Podcast Ep. 5: Blending Holistic Healing and Mainstream Pediatric Medicine With Ruth McCarty, DAMC, LAc

In this episode

Audra and Justin reconnect with dear friend, partner in healing, and highly accomplished practitioner of Traditional Chinese Medicine, Dr. Ruth McCarty. Ruth discusses her beginnings as a healer, finding her calling for helping others, and the importance of using both Western and Eastern modalities to achieve holistic healing. Audra, Justin, and Ruth also talk about how true thriving happens when healthcare providers focus on the family as a whole, rather than an isolated individual.

Listen here



About our guest

Dr. Ruth McCarty, DACM, L.Ac specializes in Traditional Chinese Medicine and sees her patients at Children’s Hospital of Orange County (CHOC) and Open Mind Modalities. She earned her doctorate in Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine at Pacific College and completed fellowships in Pediatrics and Internal Medicine at the Traditional Chinese Medicine University Hospital in Shandong, China. Ruth comes from a long line of healers, and it’s her mission to treat her patients holistically through mind, body, and spirit.

Show notes

  • Audra, Justin, and their son Max have worked closely with Dr. Ruth and her husband, neurosurgeon Dr. William Loudon.
  • Ruth is passing on her knowledge as an associate faculty member in the College of Eastern Medicine at Southern California University of Health Sciences.
  • Acupuncture is the practice of inserting thin needles into specific points on the body to balance qi and energy flow.
  • Tui Na massage and acupressure are similar practices to acupuncture, but with the use of the massage instead of needles.
  • Medicinal herbs play an important role in Traditional Chinese Medicine and are used to encourage the flow of qi.
  • Cupping uses glass cups that are heated with fire then placed onto the body. The heat creates a suction effect and this is believed to increase blood flow and qi.
  • Moxibustion is similar to acupuncture, but moxa wool is burned on the meridians.
  • Qi is a key component of Traditional Chinese Medicine. It’s a vital energy that flows through the body and connects the individual to their surroundings and to others.
  • The Ohana Project is a partnership between Ruth and MaxLove Project that focuses on treating families affected by childhood cancer as a unit.
  • MaxLove’s BE SUPER action plan is a seven-point plan that helps childhood cancer families thrive!
  • Neurofibromatosis type II is a genetic disorder that causes benign tumors to grow on nerve tissue.
  • Dr. Gary Goodman is the medical director of CHOC’s pediatric intensive care unit.
  • NICU stands for neonatal intensive care unit. It’s where babies can get around-the-clock care from experts.
  • Children can receive around-the-clock care in the pediatric intensive care unit (PICU).
  • Longview Asylum was a state mental ward in Cincinnati It was closed in 1984.
  • Beechwood Home is a facility in Cincinnati that offers long-term care for neurological disorders.
  • The University of California, San Diego (UCSD) is located just minutes away from the beach.
  • Similar to Jenny Walters (Ep. 2), Ruth was an artist before she became a professional healer.
  • Gua sha is the practice of scraping your skin with a special massage tool in order to improve circulation.
  • Kriya yoga is a specific yoga practice with the main goal of spiritual growth.
  • “Discontent is the want of self-reliance...” is part of a longer quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson.
  • To learn more about the benefits of eating whole foods, take The Daily Thrive’s Nourish Masterclass!
  • Box breathing is a helpful tool that can help us take a moment to increase mindfulness and calm stress levels.
  • Studies show that it’s important to enjoy the exercise that we choose to partake in because it affects our exercise levels and frequency.
  • The Self-Realization Fellowship is a part of the Kriya yoga practice to help promote spiritual enlightenment.
  • Transcendental Meditation (TM) is “a meditative technique for avoiding distracting thoughts and promoting a state of relaxed awareness” through the use of a mantra.
  • Amanda Gorman is an American poet best known for her book “The Hill We Climb” and is the first National Youth Poet Laureate. To listen to the whole poem Ruth references, click here.
  • Some nursing homes are creating programs where children and seniors can interact with each other! This is beneficial to both parties, particularly seniors who may otherwise feel isolated.


Justin:
Dr. Ruth McCarty holds a special place in our hearts. Not only is she a highly accomplished traditional Chinese medicine practitioner working within mainstream Western medicine, but she played a huge role in our son's recovery after his initial brain surgery back in 2011, and we found ways to work with her ever since. So we're thrilled to bring you this week's episode.

Ruth: Every day, it's a guarantee, there are going to be challenges and obstructions, but the secret to that is staying in the flow, being connected to spirit service, and when you were giving your life to others, and that's the point of your movement, then it doesn't matter what life throws in your way.

Justin: Ruth McCarty practices Traditional Chinese Medicine, delivering integrative care to residents of Orange County, California, from infancy to adulthood.

Dr. McCarty has spent her career working to integrate these methods into Western medical institutions to maximize the healing and comfort process for patients. This care is continued in her private practice, Open Mind Modalities with locations in Aliso Viejo and Orange, California. Today, she serves as the Clinical Director of Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine program at CHOC, Children's Hospital of Orange County in California.

She founded this program with her husband, neurosurgeon, William Loudon, MD PhD. She also serves as an associate faculty member at the Southern California University of Health Sciences in the College of Eastern Medicine. Dr. McCarty earned her doctorate degree of Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine at Pacific College of Oriental Medicine in San Diego, California, and completed internships at PCOM and at the San Diego Hospice Inpatient Care Center.

She completed fellowships in Pediatrics and Internal Medicine at the Traditional Chinese Medicine University Hospital in the Shandong province of China. Dr. McCarty has participated in medical missions to India, the Dominican Republic, and Kenya. Without further ado, here's our beautiful conversation with the inevitable Dr. Ruth McCarty.

Audra: Tell us what Traditional Chinese Medicine is.

Ruth: TCM, Traditional Chinese Medicine is a very old and eloquent system of medicine that's based on treatment modalities, initiating treatment modalities, that help the body heal itself. To help put harmony and balance into pathologies or illness that the body, the spirit, or the mind, it looks at the body as a whole kind of component to heal itself, and that's done with different treatment modalities like acupuncture, acupressure, massage, herbal medicine, cupping, Tui Na, moxibustion—those are all healing modalities that we offer in our clinic setting and in the hospital.

But one of the beautiful things about Chinese medicine, from the culture that it comes from, is that so many of these healing modalities, which are considered almost exotic in our culture, are part of the family tools at home to keep healthy. So herbs are used in cooking in China and in Asia. Therapeutic herbs that have healing properties are used in everyday cooking. Acupressure and moxibustion are therapies that are taught within family generations that are used at home to keep you healthy so you don't get sick, or even if you do get sick.

These are taught by your mother by your grandmother to keep you in a state of health. So that's, so where they’re considered they can be considered exotic in our culture, in one of the goals of the last 20 some years that I've been doing is to bring these into the home as part of the family toolbox for therapeutic care and prevention to keep our families healthy.

Audra: That's amazing. Most people don't think about when they think about, let's say acupuncture, because I don't think we, like most people who are not receiving care in this way, don't necessarily think of Traditional Chinese Medicine as a whole, but let's say acupressure is preventative, a lot of people think, think of these modalities is, “Hey, once you're injured, hurt or ill, I'm gonna go in and try this form of care,” but I think it is really powerful to think of the entire cultural-based lifestyle, it's really a lifestyle medicine in many ways, that to keep one healthy it that sounds like a balance to me. Not just focusing on sickness.

Ruth: Right, and that's been, I think one of the hardest things to impart or teach or even sell to my patient base is that you can use this medicine to stay healthy. Once people are integrated into care and they have been healed, then they understand it, but upfront to tell my patients, you do this so you don't end up sick, you do this to stay healthy, and that's really been an education process in my career too, because we're just not taught that in our culture.

Justin: No, I still am surprised for myself how I'll slip back into, I'll miss a couple days of meditation or some emotional processing practices and I'll start feeling kind of out of sorts again. It's like, “Oh yeah, this is like every other thing,” like eating healthy and working out, and that these are things that we have to do as a regular part of our lives, and we're not taught this when we're young.

Ruth: Agreed. And I think the word ‘practice’ is a really powerful word when you're thinking about self-care, it doesn't, the things that we practice to develop our self-care regime. I'm a meditator, I do yoga, but you need to put those healing modalities into that practice.

It's a really powerful word” ‘practice,’ and where people, and I'm afraid in our culture, it's all kind of a solution. What's the solution to this problem? And it's just they think of it as a one-time thing or a thing to get rid of that disharmony that you're feeling. But it needs to be a practice. It needs to be part of your life consistently.

Justin: Yeah, Ruth, can I just share this new theory that I have about Western culture, or at least the culture that I live in. Most of what we are sold and the regular things we do are avoidance stuff. It's like stuff to avoid dealing with emotional pain, with psychological issues, with... So whether it's scrolling our social media feed or anything else, it's all avoidance, it's all distraction. So these other practices are asking us to actively engage into...

Ruth: And when we do practice what happens? We become present, those are keywords, we become present in our practice where you're right, social media is the worst, and I’m as guilty as anybody. Although I have to say since we have a new president and a new administration, that my anxiety level and my news scrolling and my media scrolling has probably been cut by 92%.

Justin: Oh my gosh.

Ruth: Cuz I wake up in the morning and I'm like, “Oh, functioning adult.”

Justin: So I still kind of habitually listen to the news in the morning every day, and today I turned it on and the first thing they said is the president dut da du du da and I could feel my heart rate go up like, “Oh god, the president... What is he doing now?” I was like, “Oh wait, no, we have a different president now.”

Ruth: It’s so true.

Audra: So, Ruth can you tell us about the concept of, and you can correct me if I'm wrong, qi or chi, and you spoke of harmony and disharmony. I'd love to know more about this facet of Traditional Chinese Medicine.

Ruth: So qi is a word that is used in Chinese medicine. There are many, many different kinds of qi, and that is mostly referring to the different functions that energy have in our universe, in our body, but kind of as a base, qi is a natural life force within you, but it is also the life force in our world, in our universe, in our communities and our families, of how we relate to each other, of how our functions of our body relate to each other.

And when this qi is moving smoothly and freely and working the way it's supposed to, then we are in a state of harmony and things work. Like we all know when we've had a day and we've stayed in the flow. Like, what does that mean? Right, we've stayed in the flow where these connections and these relationships of this energy in our own body of how we relate to our family, of how we relate to our co-workers, of how we relate to nature around us is flowing freely. And that's when we have harmony.

One of the descriptions I use with kids and trying to talk about qi and how the free flow of qi means health and when it's not flowing freely is like, how do you feel when you're in the car with your mom and you're in a traffic jam on I-5, and you have to get somewhere and you can't get somewhere and you've gotta go to practice? Or you have to go to school? Or you're trying and you get, start getting caught and you start getting frustrated, and then everyone's voices raise and that's where qi is stuck. It's really easy to explain to kids what that feels like, and to adults.

Audra: They get it.

Ruth: Right. Yeah, yeah. So it's staying... Harmony is staying in that flow.

Audra: Yeah, yeah, that's what I wonder to have kids are more in touch with... “Yes, I'm in flow. No, I'm not,” because I feel like being with kids, they express it so beautifully.

Ruth: They have no filters.

Audra: Right, right.

Ruth: There's none of these filters and these protective shields that we all put up as adults or that avoidance thing. They're just kind of right in the, they're good at staying in the flow.

Audra: Right, right in it. So how does that affect your practice and because you work a lot with kids, you have a very unique practice from what I've learned about Traditional Chinese Medicine and the modalities you use, because you see adults and kids, you see a very large amount of folks with complex cases, complex diseases, and you work inpatient at Children's Hospital of Orange County as well.

You straddle the Eastern and Western, if you will, because you know a ton about the Western modalities, you're very, very well-versed in, in Western medicine, and I think it's one reason why your patients trust you so much because they know that you know what they're talking about in their treatment plans at the hospital, but you also are a doctor of Chinese medicine, and so there is that translational work that you do.

So I'm really interested in what it's like to treat kids and how they can speak to that flow or those blockages and represent that.

Ruth: So, I think the first thing I'm going to address in that eloquent description of my practice, which I thank you, is that you cannot treat a child without treating the parents, you just can’t.

Justin: We know that first hand.

Ruth: You can't. You have to address those family relationships, because what does a child look to the parent or the caregiver for? They look to them for everything. So to try to just change a disharmony, whether it's physical or emotional or spiritual, you have to address the connection between the parent and the child. And that's something that I think is not unique in Chinese medicine, that is part of the Chinese medicine approach to harmony. But I think that's unique within our practice, how it's implemented.

Audra: Yes.

Ruth: Even in the hospital. I may not be able to do acupuncture in the hospital, but we can do other things, or even being attentive and listening and present for parents has a huge therapeutic effect.

Audra: Huge.

Ruth: Huge.

Audra: Huge, yup.

Ruth: I think that's probably one of the most important things we do in our clinic, in our practice, is that we treat the family as a whole, which you guys know.

Audra: Well, absolutely, and it’s groundbreaking, Ruth, this gets into how we met, and so I really wanna go into that story a little bit and just put a pin in something before I do. I hope that we live to see a day where when a child is admitted to the hospital, or like our son, Max was directly to the ICU, that the entire family is put into care, take our insurance cards. All of us. Sign us all up. You know what I mean? Why does it have to be segmented? I asked for an aspirin that first night, I had the worst headache I've ever had, and they said, “Sorry, Mom, we can't do anything for you.”

Ruth: And it would be, I agree.

Audra: So we have to take your approach and the values behind this Traditional Chinese Medicine approach of treating the whole family to our greater healthcare system would be amazing. And this is what we saw beginning to be realized in our Ohana Project.

And so MaxLove Project had this wonderful, wonderful research study that we initiated with you, with Open Mind Modalities with Children's Hospital of Orange County, focused on a family-based approach to integrative health that included acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine. And the reason why we did this is because we learned first-hand ourselves and with countless other families, the value of what you provide.

And so we met, oh Ruth, it was nine-and-a-half years ago now. We met in the hospital. Our neurosurgeon is also your partner, your life partner, your husband. And he softly suggested that we see, he asked if we're interested in Traditional Chinese Medicine because you, his wife, practices in the hospital, and it was offered, and I think I remember being in such shock. I had no idea what the hell was going on, I knew we were open to it, but I didn't know what we could handle.

And so you just, I think gently came back and before we knew it, we were getting, going in and getting acupuncture with you before Max’s chemotherapy, after his chemotherapy every week, we were,  every time he was in the hospital you were there, and you’ve been his healer, one of his healers, I know that he has had a few, including your husband.

But you've been that presence for us and so many others, and one of the most beautiful things that came out of our time with you is not only an appreciation for the power of Traditional Chinese Medicine, personally. Like Max wouldn't know how to describe it, but he would just, I knew because he wanted to go. He's also an Aquarius, also a man of few words, but he always feels better.

Right, so one of the most magical things that happened is you have something that you offer that many, I don't know that there's another practice like it, where you offer a group treatment. And so we would be in the waiting room with all of these families who wanted to be treated together and we, the community that we built together, and now that you describe qi, that's what's flowing between all of us, right? That’s a power there.

Ruth: That's the perfect example of it.

Audra: This is how our work together was born. The MaxLove Project was born first as a service project, a way to give back and to build community, and seeing the power of what you are doing and combining that with our other BE SUPER action points that we developed, especially our work on nutrition. We just knew that we had to work together. The Ohana Project was born, we opened an office together in Orange, California, and the work continues. I know we have some really big dreams together too, but this is how... This is how we met, and I do believe that we're connected at such a deep level, and we're so grateful for you, Ruth.

Ruth: It’s likewise. I think one of the greatest losses of this pandemic with COVID is... Well, besides all the lives and the trauma, but I can't do community acupuncture in my waiting room because it's not safe. And I see the loss of that flow between the families, it's heartbreaking, it's heartbreaking. And I just pray and can't wait for the day that we can do that again.

Audra: So deeply therapeutic, empowering, powerful. I hear from all of the families is just, it's a huge hole in all of our lives. I think you're right, this is like a big part of the fallout from COVID, and as we come back into it, I know that it's a thing that we won't be taking for granted, for sure.

Ruth: That, that's my favorite part of my practice is how busy and beautiful my waiting room gets and the interaction between the kids and the parents, and the parents with other kids and... Oh my gosh. And the grandparents... And it's a beautiful, beautiful thing.

Audra: What you've created is a space for healing, and so as you're like physically and energetically working on that flow and really helping the flow of qi, I think, can’t this sort of thing happen everywhere, anywhere?

Ruth: Of course it can.

Audra: Every hospital...

Ruth: Of course it can.

Audra: …waiting room? We just don't think like that. So it's one thing that I love about what you do and the effect that you have, bringing your work into the hospital, is that it starts to seep in maybe more slowly than you and I would want... You've been doing this for a really long time. But what are some of the effects of your practice that you've seen change maybe some of the little things in the hospital, even interactions or things with associates and clinicians?

Ruth: I think to begin with, I started out one patient at a time. I told this story, I think I told this story to a parent yesterday, which I tell the story a lot because I'm asked, how did this start? Right. How did this start? And it started, I was treating a neurofibromatosis type II, which is benign tumors in your central nervous system or brain and spine.

And this young man, I think he was 12 when he started, Bill... Dr. Loudon did probably over 50 surgeries on his brain and spine, right. And he would have a pretty good quality of life after, but he would have intractable nausea and vomiting after surgery, not one cocktail, many, many drugs would touch it. Horrible. It would be horrible.

He was just constantly on IV fluids, it was so painful to watch, and I had been treating him out-patient, did not have in-patient privileges yet, and I went to round with Dr. Loudon on a Saturday afternoon, just to round in the hospital too, 'cause I knew he was in the hospital, he was a very beloved San Clemente hometown, local boy. And God bless Dr. Gary Goodman, who was the intensivist on that day. His kids, knew Taylor, it was just a very energetically connected group.
And Dr. Loudon looked at Dr. Goodman and said, “Give her temporary privileges,” as poor Taylor is just puking his brains out bedside and his parents feel so helpless to help him.

And Dr. Goodman said, “Okay.” And had him within hours, and that's how it started, and of course within 15 minutes of getting acupuncture, his nausea and vomiting stopped. That’s one of the truly miraculous effects of treatment, and it's so beautiful. And after I had temporary privileges, they started feeding me, “Can you help this, can you help that?” It was like I wasn't getting paid, but I was getting the opportunity to treat these kids in the hospital, and that started the path on getting permanent privileges, which was over a year process of going to medical executive committees.

And the first question they asked me, I'm like, I'm so nervous and I’ve prepared. And the first question they asked me is “Do you use sterile needles?” and I just like...

Audra: No, I use dirty ones. I just have one needle that I use for everybody.

Ruth: The education process of, we’re certified in clean needle technique and the entry-level degree to practice Chinese medicine at that time was a mass of four-years Masters. And then people go like, they just didn't know, it was ignorance.

Audra: Right.

Ruth: And the process after, through education, oh my gosh, was they were really happy to have me there. They were really happy to be able to offer this to patients.

Audra: And how many years has it been now?

Ruth: That was in 2002—well, it was 2001, and it took a year to get permanent privileges in 2002.

Audra: It's incredible. And how many folks do you have practicing with you at the hospital now?

Ruth: We now have... There's three credential practitioners. I'm having two more credentialed as we speak, they're in the process of getting their privileges. And then we have the internship program with Southern California Health Science Universities where I have doctoral students come in and intern with me and round and treat patients. That program is really great because practitioners are getting the opportunity to treat critical care, to treat NICU, to treat these types of patients you'd never see outpatient.

Audra: Right, right. And so it's from the NICU to the PICU, really? All the way through.

Ruth: All the way through.

Audra: It's incredible, and then you have the clinics where you can, where you can see these patients when they're home.

Ruth: Right. Continuity of care.

Audra: Oh it's beautiful. Beautiful, Ruth. That makes me think, we've talked about this incredible journey you've had.

Ruth: But let me go back to that last point. The point was, it was one patient at a time, that's how it's started, right? And that's how anything that lasts or anything of significance, it's just that one step that leads to the next step, and we have, all three of us, right? We have these giant aspirations, but we're gonna do it one step at a time.

Justin: So Ruth, now I wanna go back to the first step for you. How did this all begin where you knew you wanted to become a healer, and then acupuncture was gonna be your modality?

Ruth: So I've had some, still have, amazing mentors in my life of women healers. I think the most prominent being my mom, who was a nurse and a healer. And I was thinking about this, my great-grandmother was a sound healer.

Audra: Oh, really?

Ruth: And she was an herbalist and…

Justin: Wow.

Ruth: When my great-grandma was, when she came to live with us, I grew up in a multi-generational family, both my great-grandmas lived with us at one point, my grandma lived with us at one point, which I think we miss a lot in our culture from not having multi-generational families, because I got to see and benefit from their wisdom.

But my great-grandmother was, she lived such a sparse life, she was so ahead of her time, she recycled everything, she had her Bible, her little, she would make little vials of healing tinctures and then she would do this really beautiful sound healing, which I'm so sorry she did not give to me, but she kinda had dementia by the time she came to live with us. And she would just walk around and over you, she'd made these little “hrrrr, hrrr…”

My mom said when she was young, she would take my mom out into the country, they lived like rural country, she would take my mom when she was a child out into the country and go to these farms where there were no doctors, and with her little tinctures and do sound healing over them. Fascinating.

Justin: Wow, so this is like indigenous European, ancient European, folk healing.

Ruth: Folk healing at its finest. And then my mom took a more traditional route, and she was a nurse. She did a lot of home health care off the clock, she worked in a hospital. My mom was a very accomplished nurse, ran a hospital, worked in all kinds of units, but she was always doing, well, you have to go back to the basis like, I am a child of God in service, right. And that's how my mom raised me. We live our life in service to our creator, and we do it through helping others in healing.

So she was constantly taking me out into the... I never knew where we were going when I was a kid. She took me to Long View Asylum on the weekends. This is like a mental... It's a mental hospital. It's an asylum. It was the scariest place. And I was young enough for... I don't even know what we did there, but she would carry me in, so I was young enough to be carried.

And it was a scary place. She had to go through opening the locked gates, and I remember the attendants, they would cut cigarettes up into little pieces and they'd be allowed to smoke a cigarette like that big. And they were constantly wanting to touch me 'cause I was like, this child, right, and this was such a dark, scary place, but I don't even know what my mom did there. She did some kind of healing, nursing, something there.

Justin: Okay, I just have to ask about this story, Ruth. Can you remember how you felt?

Ruth: I was terrified. But my mom constantly, that was part of our, my training as to be in service, because you're in service to all mankind.

Audra: Right, right.

Ruth: That was my mom would... What I do remember, my mom would go in and the most wretched humans in this place... And they were wretched. Oh my god, mental, state mental hospitals back then, they probably... I don't even know if we have them anymore, so wretched, she would wash feet. She would go in and wash feet of the most wretched of wretched, poor people, completely out of their minds, and administer love and care to them. That's my earliest like memories.

Audra: And you're right. She did give that to you, right? And it's not just showing you all the beautiful things, it's inviting you into all of it.

Ruth: I can, from doing stuff like that, I can walk... I am confident to walk into this precarious situations.

Justin: Right, that's what I was thinking, that here you have this, this spiritual act of grace at the same time you're experiencing terror. And to like, to hold these two things together is amazing.

Ruth: I had this blonde like crazy hair when I was little, and I just remember them, the patients and their fingernails were so dirty and they weren’t... It was a scary place, but they all wanted to touch my hair, touch me…

Justin: Oh my gosh.

Audra: I can just imagine the light you brought in there.

Ruth: It was a great, that was the beginning, I was probably three or four years old then. It was great training.

And then when I was in elementary school, my mom, this is where I got my real start, my mom was the Director of Nursing at the Beachwood Home of the Incurable and Beachwood Home, it was like a nursing home. But in the turn of the century, if your child was born with developmental delays or cerebral palsy, or if your child contracted polio, you were institutionalized. You didn't get to bring your kid home, that was like, in our culture, it’s crazy, right? In other cultures, they don't do that, your child was put in an institution.

So this wealthy Procter and Gamble in Cincinnati, Procter and Gamble family, had a daughter with CP, with cerebral palsy, and they built the Beachwood Home for the Incurable. It was a beautiful, old type, marble floored mansion that they built this place to give their child a home.

So they started this home for these kids, as these kids grew up, it turned into a nursing home for geriatrics, and by the time my mom was the director of this place, it was all geriatric patients, but some of them had lived there since they were little kids. And I would go there every day after school, that's where I hung out, and all of these patients were my friends, like I would go and sit, the stories were fascinating, amazing stories that, um.

One of my best friends was Charlotte, who, she was in her 60s or 70s, no, she was older than that. Her 80s at the time, but she had contracted polio as a child, and her legs did not grow, she had... She was like a little doll, and she was in this big wheel chair, but she was an adult, and when she was, I think 19... This was way back in the early 1900s—when she was 19, he fell in love with an orderly, and if you were handicapped, you could not get married...You cannot get married. You could not have children. You were institutionalized.

So, she told me the story so many times, so this orderly, got a basket and rigged a rope, and he was going to lower her from the second story of the Beachwood Home for the Incurable and they were gonna run away together. And they got caught.

Audra: Oh my god.

Ruth: And he was fired and she never saw him again. And she had a picture of him by her bed.

Audra: Oh, heartbreaking.

Ruth: Oh my god, it was... I heard so many stories like that, they're truly beautiful. Oh gosh. So they grew up institutionalized, these kids, and I have found that I think I treat a lot of special needs kids in my practice, and I'm sure that's where I got my start. I love treating special needs kids, they're just such beautiful, light, joyous souls.

But another thing that happened to me there, because it was a nursing home, a geriatric, is that's where I got my start in end of-life care. And I would know who was on their way out and I would... I just knew, and I would sit, sometimes I'd sit... They had these really high beds, I think, 'cause it made it easier for the staff, but when I was little, I could sit under their beds. So when patients were dying, oftentimes either it was to stay out of the way, I don't know why, but I'd sit under their beds with them, or I'd sit with them until they left.

And it was, the one thing I want to tell, there are so many things to talk about end-of-life care, but the one thing I want your listeners to know is that adults and children from doing end-of-life care at CHOC and in my practice, they do not leave unprepared. They do not leave unprepared, they are visited and prepared, and it can be so difficult and heartbreaking, but where, you don't leave alone and you don't leave unprepared.

Justin: Ruth, I’m having a realization that we need to schedule another interview just to talk about end-of-life care.

Ruth: There’s a lot to talk about.

Justin: This is such a great topic. It might strike listeners to The Family Thrive like, “Hey, this is a little dark,” but every family is dealing with end-of-life care.

Ruth: We’re all gonna die.

Justin: …It's gonna touch everybody. And so this podcast is not just about the happy, great parts of family life, which of course it is, but it's also gonna be about these painful parts of the journey that people like you know a lot about. And we would really love to really open up and have a lot of time with this.

Audra: Yeah, I'm really interested just for a moment, as we keep continuing in your journey, learning about your journey, Ruth, to know as... So as a child and a young person, you are... It sounds like you were just attuned to the transition. And you just... You just knew.

Ruth: It wasn't something I learned, definitely. It was just something that I was aware of from my earliest, earliest, earliest memories.

Audra: And you were not scared. You wanted to be with people.

Ruth: No, I was never scared. I don't know, maybe my mom carried me into the mental asylum...

Audra: It's so powerful, Ruth, and we need more of you and your voice and your perspective to help us have these conversations and normalize what is the most normal aspect of humanity that we haven't normalized, you know.

Ruth: And we've so avoided it in our culture. It's horrible how we've avoided it. It's horrible. We all suffer because of it.

Audra: So much. So much, and then we avoid that suffering.

Ruth: And then we get sick.

Audra: But it's beautiful. So you transition with people, you chose to be there with people as they’re transitioning, and you've done that ever since.

Ruth: Ever since. My whole life. Yes, and I think the path that I've been following with my practice and in the hospital has allowed me to do more of that, and I'm so grateful. I'm so grateful. It's some of the most beautiful, amazing. It's the point of your whole life are those moments when you make that transition. Truly, truly.

Audra: So you grew up in this, imagine this, maternal line of matriarch healers.

Ruth: True.

Audra: And I could see them almost as you're describing this journey, and you end up in San Diego, California as an art major.

Ruth: Yes. So, I have to be honest about this. I grew up in Ohio. I really did not enjoy the Midwest because I like to be outside all the time. I found great joy and comfort in nature, and it's hard to do that when it's either too hot and humid to be outside or too cold to be outside.

Audra: Right, right.

Ruth: So I, from a really early age, my mom told me before I was five, I started telling her I'm moving to California. And she was like, “What? Yeah, whatever. ” I had never been here, I had never been here before I moved here.

Audra: You just knew.

Ruth: So I moved to California, and when I got here, I was like, “Are you kidding me? People have lived like this the whole time and I didn't know.” I picked my college, I went to UCSD, University of California, San Diego, but I picked my college solely on its location.

Audra: And art.

Justin: And the ocean and you’ve never left.

Ruth: I was pursuing art. And it had a great art program, but it was mostly because of where it was located.

Audra: You know what, one thing that was really interesting that we had a podcast with earlier, our wonderful friend and contributor to The Family Thrive, Jenny Walters, and she is also a healer. She's a therapist, psychologist who was a fine art photographer, and she described, Justin, do you remember how she said that she described how therapy and doing art made her feel the same way because it was in touch with the same thing. It was in touch with the same healing, it was in touch with, there's some sort of…

Justin: Some energetic flow.

Audra: It was energetic. She was like, once I got that, I saw... So was there a relationship for you between that art creative, artistic process for you?

Ruth: Absolutely. I mean, art is an expression of your soul. And your soul is every aspect, your mental, spiritual, physical... Every aspect. In the art I did, I did collective pieces and sculpture, I was a dumpster diver in college. I was like... I think it goes back to my great-grandmother, the recycler way before her time, found a use for every single thing, but I was constantly rescuing things and trying to make something beautiful out of it, and it does... It touches your soul. That's why art... And Chinese medicine is an art. So many Chinese medicine practitioners have previous art histories.

Justin: Well, that makes sense. Yeah.

Audra: Yeah, it's really cool. So, then you became an acupuncturist. You found your way.

Ruth: My path, it's so long and varied. I moved to California, went to UCSD, and while I was in college, I became a first responder and beach lifeguard. Which was another way to be able to sit outside and such a gift to watch the sun traverse the sky and all the things that happened in nature, and it was part of my service, I was serving people, keeping people safe. The first responder aspect, I was really interested in healthcare. It served that need.

Because it was kind of a seasonal job, that meant that I had months when it wasn't the season to travel and surf. So I was living the endless summer traveling all over the world, surfing, immersing myself in different cultures, learning about their art and their healing practices. It was... And honestly, I would have done it forever.

Audra: What changed?

Ruth: I had... Well, I think God was giving me little nudges saying, you can't do the endless summer thing forever, and I didn't listen. So I went from being a very fit, high trained person using my physical abilities to perform my job, to breaking my neck and laying in bed for, in chronic pain for months, a year.

Audra: Did you break your neck surfing?

Ruth: No, it was an accident. But having my whole... So much of my identity was wrapped up in my physical abilities, and all of a sudden I had none. So I had to do a lot of soul searching, dealing with heavy, heavy... It's hard. Depression, when you can't... Chronic pain is horrible. But that experience, when a person walks into my clinic or I am consulted on a person in terrible pain or chronic pain, I know that look in their eye.

Justin: You know.

Ruth: I have great empathy for that. So I sought out alternative medicine because Western medicine had nothing to offer me once my structural, my bones were healed, I had terrible soft tissue injury. And that just wasn't healing. And Western medicine doesn't have a lot to offer for that chronic condition. Ao I sought out acupuncture, I sought out Chinese medicine, helped me so much within three months of getting my first treatment, I was enrolling in graduate school to become a Chinese medicine practitioner.

Justin: Wow. Wow. Oh, what I'm hearing here is a connection to something that we've talked about earlier, not on this podcast, but in the past, your definition for thriving, you told me was moving through life without obstruction. And so this point in your life, you broke your neck, total chronic pain, feels like a huge obstruction. What's striking me right now is that that obstruction led to something really beautiful.

Ruth: I think I'm hard-headed, I don't know.

Justin: Well, can you talk more about your definition of thriving?

Ruth: Yeah, thriving when I... And that's gonna go back to staying in the flow. When I said moving through life without obstruction, that doesn't mean life without challenges, because that's a guarantee. Every day it’s a guarantee, there are going to be challenges and obstructions that the secret to that is staying in the flow, and for me, it's staying connected to spirit and service. And when you are giving your life to others, and that's the point of your movement then it doesn't matter what life throws in your way.

'Cause, this is for me, if I stay on the path of service and I stay giving my life to God, then I know it doesn't, I know I'm on the right path, no matter what gets thrown my way. That's kind of the deeper meaning of that for me, yeah.

Audra: So Ruth, you spent time in China after graduate school?

Ruth: I did. Yes.

Audra: And can you tell us some of these experiences when it comes to flow, when it comes to that definition of thriving. Did you have any experience with some of these ways of looking at life and existence in Chinese culture in a different way than presents here?

Ruth: So China, my experience in China was one of great contradiction. I thought I was so excited to go and the medicine was beautiful, wonderful. It was a great experience as far as the medicine. Living in a very communist country where people are constantly in fear of the government, constant, it’s not like it is now. So that part was... It was hard for me. Quality of life for people in China when I was there was really difficult. It was so difficult. There was the... A culture that is so old, you’d think that they would have waste management down. But they don’t.

Audra: No.

Ruth: Oh, it's horrible. I just couldn't believe that. How you guys understand Chinese medicine, the flow and obstruction, and so I just... They didn't put a lot of value on people, which was hard for me. People treating each other like family units, I never saw an elderly person come to a doctor's appointment by themselves.

Elderly were revered there, even if there were no elevators in the Chinese medicine hospital, so you had to take the stairs. And if an elderly person came, I saw elderly people come in wheelbarrows wrapped in beautifully homemade silk quilts and then the family members would carry the wheelbarrow up the stairs. It was just like so many contradictions in China.

But one of the most beautiful things I saw was how Chinese medicine was used in the family unit with cooking of these medicinal herbs and practices like moxibustion and Tui Na, and gua sha was used at home preventatively, that was a really beautiful thing. But man, it was hard watching how little value was put on life there from the government’s standpoint.

Audra: So dynamic, and it sounds like such a deep resistance in the communist regime to the culture.

Ruth: Yes.

Audra: And to the history of China, it was like...

Ruth: It was shocking to me. I came home so thankful for public restrooms and plumbing, and I've been all over the world. I'm not like a faint of heart traveler, but I think the massive humanity there also was shocking to me, just how many people... And I rode my bike, I got a bike and would ride to the hospital every day. I was the only person wearing a bike helmet, nobody wears a, millions of bikers. There are so many head injuries in China. I would go the same... Right, the same route to the hospital every day and people would point out at me and go “Big head, big head!”

Justin: So Ruth, I wanna shift gears real quick, so you've said in the past that if you have one self-care piece of advice for parents that it would be “Breathe.” And I know you’ve... I think you've told us this in the past too, I think I actually remember you telling me this in 2011 when I brought Max in for the first time, like “Dad, breathe.” So can you tell more about, is it a special type of breathing... What... Can you talk more about this piece of advice?

Ruth: So we're gonna get back to that word of practice again, and self-care. Part of my daily practice is Kriya yoga, which is a breath technique, to develop a closer relationship with God. That's the basis of it.

Now, what goes along with doing breathing techniques, there are many types of breathing techniques, Kriya is just the one that I practice. But it brings you, besides all the physiological benefits that happens to your body, it brings you into the present to breathe, right?

And if you are being present and not stressing out about what could be or what has been and staying present, that's what I think what breathing really does, is that your anxiety level would go down and you will put yourself back into that flow with spirit. So my practice, I have a pretty... And what you were talking about the beginning, Justin, when if I fall out of my practice, man, I know I'm gonna pay. It's not like, it's not like I have to do this, it's like, if I don't do this, what will happen?

So my practice involves, I do a good hour of meditation every morning and breathing techniques, and that includes just being quiet and sitting with God, and then I do a lot of dialogue with God.

Justin: Is there any special or is there any quick breathing practice that you can give parents? Like if things are really intense, is there just a quick method?

Ruth: Yes, if you count your breaths in. If you just do, count the time of taking a breath in for five seconds, hold it for five seconds and exhale it for five seconds. If you do that 10 times, your whole physiological make-up will be different, your mind... It will be so different just doing that.

Audra: Ruth, I love that. I think it's a really beautiful, tangible first step, baby step, but also just a daily thing to incorporate in one's life. Right, that's something that you can take a second to do. You can set your watch, you can set up some reminders to do something like that throughout the day. I wanted to ask you, this isn't just advice you give, you give parents through your practice and that you practice yourself, but you're also a mom. And we haven't talked about... We haven't talked about that yet.

We absolutely love your beautiful son, Jesse who is now a full grown man. It’s amazing. And of course, you and Dr. Loudon share a family. Do you impart any of this on your kids, is this something that these practices... Do you share these practices with them?

Ruth: Yes, actually, I just want us, being a mom, best thing ever, best, best, best, best thing I've ever done. Heather, you know Heather, one of our practitioners, just had a baby.

Audra: Oh Heather had her baby, congrats!

Ruth: She had a boy, so beautiful, and it's just the best thing you can do, just... Gosh. It's the best gift from God ever. Children, but all of our kids, we have four kids between us, all of our kids always wanted Chinese medicine but nobody went that path, so I'm hoping, I became a grandma this year, this past year for the second generation. But yeah, they all... Jesse's a meditator, he’s really about good food and healthy lifestyle, and Elliot, the oldest son is a firefighter, Emily's a nurse, his wife, we've... I think we've imparted the idea of service onto our kids.

Audra: Absolutely.

Ruth: I think I had more influence on Jesse that Jesse's really taken the ‘be still’ concept and run with it, and he has a practice. Definitely.

Audra: How is that... Is that for you with... I can imagine a parent listening to this thinking, “Okay, how do I get started?” Was it... Is it modeling the way... Did you have open conversations? Did you do it together? How did this start for Jesse?

Ruth: From day one, of course. I asked, it was funny, I asked Bill and Jesse, your last questions that you put your MaxLove questions, about your quotes. And Jesse was... I raised Jesse, as my mom raised me, with a lot of Ralph Waldo Emerson. And Jesse's quote was a Ralph Waldo Emerson quote  that I wrote above his bed. I think when he was in, when school was getting kinda hard, maybe like sixth, seventh, eighth grade I wrote... “Discontent is the want of self-reliance” above his bed on the wall, and that was the quote he gave me. “Like of course Mom, that one.

Audra: Of course. That's awesome.

Justin: It starts early.

Ruth: Well, you have to start it early, 'cause those practices, man, it takes a long time to... I tried to get him to start breathing and meditating way earlier than he really embraced it. It takes a long time to find your way, but I just wanted him to be aware it was there.

Justin: Yeah, and just patience.

Ruth: Yeah you have to take those steps and figure it out, that's part of the life. But as an adult, you wanna tell your kids, but you can bypass so much angst.

Justin: Well the research, the research shows that parents, when parents eat healthier, their kids are more... Or when parents eat whole foods, their kids are more likely to eat whole foods later in life, and same with exercising. So I imagine there's gotta be something with meditation and breathing and these practices as well, that you don't need to force it on them, but if they see that it's a regular part of your life, that it will eventually start to weave itself into their life.

Ruth: And that has panned out. He's a daily meditator. And he says the same thing, “Oh, man life gets too hard if I don't do it.”

Audra: That's really powerful, Ruth. It makes me think that for parents who are looking to find that first place to start, that the breathing technique that you talked about, the five seconds or the box breathing technique is a great place to start and when potentially when something blows up with your child, like let's say you're in a moment, everyone's having a moment, the big feelings are coming out. One of the things that we can do is, “Hey, let's just breathe together for a minute. Can we do that?”

Ruth: So powerful, so powerful. And there are so many apps and ways now that it's so accessible to everybody.

Justin: Yeah, and like... Well, so the consensus recommendation on exercise amongst researchers and physicians who are into this is that just find the exercise type that you like, just find what you like and do that. And I think because we have, now have so many different meditation apps and approaches, I think the same thing could be said for that. Find the one that you like. Find the way that it works for you.

Ruth: Absolutely, there's not just one way to do anything. Oh my gosh. We're also different as human beings, you know?

Audra: Yeah, Ruth, how did you connect with... Okay, so you told us that your most important self-care practice is meditation, we talked about breathing, we talked about your breathing practice and a bit about your meditation practice… Can you tell us how you connected with your meditation practice and what does it look like for you? How did you learn it?

Ruth: I do Kriya yoga, that's part of the Self-Realization Fellowship, and I think living in... I lived in Encinitas and Del Mar, where they have a center there that they teach it. So it was local, and it just called to me. I was just very, very comfortable there. It's not a religion. It is, they teach a practice to develop your own relationship with God and that just... That spoke to me.

Audra: Yeah, in your family. Do you find that, that... I know your husband meditates as well. We know…

Ruth: He does.

Audra: Dr. Loudon, very well. He's very dear to us also, and he's very open about his meditation practice, does he... Does he follow a similar practice or do something else call to him?

Ruth: He started doing TM when he was younger, and then last year, he started in doing the Kriya techniques. So we do Kriya together, it's a really nice way, we try to end the day. This year, I have time to do it sometimes, like my main practice is in the morning, first thing when I get up, and then we do... Not always at the end of the day.

But what I've been doing with Dr. Loudon now, I think his schedule has changed a little bit so I can throw this in. So at the end of the day, we're doing down dog, so we're doing more yoga, physical yoga, and then that always... I found if I can get him to do that. So I do my... I do an hour of that when I get home from work every day, and he always gets home later than me. So then I tack on to 20 minutes for him and help him, and then we're in a much better position to sit down and meditate.

Audra: That is awesome, that resonates with me as a physicality kind of first like I have found that doing stretching, you call it yoga or stretching, and then breathing, and then in terms of a practice for me has been really helpful.

Ruth: It's really hard after a day of work to just come and sit down and be quiet, you have to do something to let go of all that stuff. And stretching has been really positive for both of us like that.

Justin: So Ruth, you alluded to these final questions that we have, and so these are three questions that we ask every podcast guest, and I love the fact that you ask these to Bill and Jesse as well. So if you wanna share their answers, we would...we'd love to hear it, but let's start... Let's start with the first one. So, Ruth, if you could put a big post-it note on every parent's fridge tomorrow morning, what would it say?

Ruth: So mine, it would say “Love God.” That would be mine. I asked my husband this morning as he was leaving, and he said, “Hug your kids.”

Justin: Oh my gosh. Coming from him, he knows what's behind that too. Yeah, there's a lot of depth there.

Ruth: And the one from Jesse, I felt like, oh, I succeeded in some way, Jesse was “Pack your kids a healthy lunch.”

Justin: Right on the fridge. Perfect.

Ruth: I thought it was funny.

Audra: Oh, that's awesome. So we talked about the quote a little bit, we talked about Jesse's quote, what is the last quote that changed the way you think or feel?

Ruth: Oh, it was so powerful, and I'm going to use the sweet dear Amanda Gorman. Oh my gosh.

Audra: Isn’t she so powerful. Isn’t she?

Ruth: Yeah, so powerful. “For it’s our grief that gives us our gratitude, shows us how to find hope if we ever lose it, to ensure that this ache wasn't endured in vain, do not ignore the pain, give it purpose. Use it.”

Audra: Yes, yes, yes.

Justin: Love that.

Ruth: She is so young. Gosh, all the beautiful stuff that we'll get from her.

Audra: Everything. I'm voting for her. I’m on the campaign team.

Justin: She's not running. But you're voting.

Audra: She said she will.

Justin: Oh, cool. Me too. So our final question is really just the context of it, is that when you're in the thick of parenting and it's just the daily grind and everything's going on, it's so easy just to sit back and be like, “Oh my god, kids, they're driving me crazy.” But we want to just end this by celebrating kids because kids are amazing, and so what is your favorite thing about kids?

Ruth: Their joy. Kids are so joyful, even in the worst of the worst. They will find some little thing to be joy about. It’s just so, so connected, they're still so connected to the source… I think we forget it as adults.

Justin: I love that. So all of the things that we do to protect ourselves from pain: all the avoidance and the distractions are also keeping us from the joy, and that’s what the kids don't have as all those avoidant coping walls built up yet.

Ruth: They'll be so honest about how terrible something can be, and then in the next second, be so joyous about how something can be.

Justin: Oh, there's wisdom there right? It's like, you gotta take the pain and the joy, the grief and the love. It's all there together.

Ruth: Exactly.

Audra: You know what Ruth? It really strikes me. I've learned so much about this in the childhood cancer journey with Max and with all of the other families we've walked with, and along the same lines always inspires me how the kids keep us going, 'cause all they want to do is just to do them.

Ruth: That’s true. I wanna share this.

Audra: Yes, yes.

Ruth: Because when we were talking about not having my waiting room going, right. I have a busy clinic. I have five or six treatment rooms and my waiting room going at the same time. And once we went into COVID and opened back up, and I didn't have a waiting room, in the middle of my day I was like, “Why am I so tired? Like do I have something wrong with me?” And I realized I wasn't like that qi that I get from an over packed waiting room wasn't there. It was a big adjustment for me.

Audra: The waiting room qi. Now, it's a beautiful, beautiful thing to point out, and in the family unit, we talk a lot about how we need to care for the whole family, and I think parents being aware of qi and kind of their own energetic flow or lack thereof, and how we can be impacting our kids, but also recognizing how our kids are positively and powerfully impacting us with that energy.

Ruth: So true, so true. Oh, gosh I should just see a happy kid. Just see a happy kid and I'm like...

Audra: Right. Have you seen, I think it was a news article on these nursing homes, and was it in Canada? That are combining orphanages and nursing homes.

Ruth: Oh that is such a great idea.

Justin: That’s brilliant.

Ruth: Yeah, I saw that where they were having... Pairing them up being buddies... That's such a great idea.

Audra: That’s, talk about the beautiful life force energy there, right? The bookends that we used to have in multi-generational homes like yours, Ruth. You know, that used to be the way.

Ruth: As it should be.

Audra: Yes, and so finding other ways to make it the way. Yeah, like your waiting room or like a way of organizing living like that. Justin's aunt actually runs an orphanage in Mexico, and what they do is they pull folks together in family units, so they actually have like... The kids aren’t just all housed in a dormitory together. They pull together these little homes that are multi-generational homes.

Ruth: So great.

Audra: Super cool.

Ruth: You lose out on so much wisdom not doing that.

Justin: So Ruth, before we go, if anyone is in, lives in Southern California and they want to access your practice and your skills, how can they get ahold of you?

Ruth: You can go online and search Open Mind Modalities. Our website is ommacupuncture.com. And you can find all the information of our clinics there.

Justin: Beautiful.

Audra: Two clinics in Orange County.

Ruth: Yes!

Audra: And if you're interested in pediatric healthcare, hospital care where there is acupuncture integrated into the system, take a look at Children's Hospital of Orange County.

Ruth: True.

Justin: Awesome.

Ruth: I miss you both so much!

Audra: We miss you, Ruth.

Justin: The feeling is mutual. Hey, thanks for listening to The Family Thrive podcast. If you like what you heard, please subscribe, tell two friends and head on over to Apple Podcasts, or anywhere you listen to podcasts, and give us a review. We're so grateful you've chosen to join us on this Family Thrive journey.

Podcast Ep. 5: Blending Holistic Healing and Mainstream Pediatric Medicine With Ruth McCarty, DAMC, LAc

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Podcast Ep. 5: Blending Holistic Healing and Mainstream Pediatric Medicine With Ruth McCarty, DAMC, LAc

Audra and Justin reconnect with dear friend, partner in healing, and highly accomplished practitioner of Traditional Chinese Medicine, Ruth McCarty, DAMC, L.Ac to discuss holistic healing.

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80 Minutes

In this episode

Audra and Justin reconnect with dear friend, partner in healing, and highly accomplished practitioner of Traditional Chinese Medicine, Dr. Ruth McCarty. Ruth discusses her beginnings as a healer, finding her calling for helping others, and the importance of using both Western and Eastern modalities to achieve holistic healing. Audra, Justin, and Ruth also talk about how true thriving happens when healthcare providers focus on the family as a whole, rather than an isolated individual.

Listen here



About our guest

Dr. Ruth McCarty, DACM, L.Ac specializes in Traditional Chinese Medicine and sees her patients at Children’s Hospital of Orange County (CHOC) and Open Mind Modalities. She earned her doctorate in Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine at Pacific College and completed fellowships in Pediatrics and Internal Medicine at the Traditional Chinese Medicine University Hospital in Shandong, China. Ruth comes from a long line of healers, and it’s her mission to treat her patients holistically through mind, body, and spirit.

Show notes

  • Audra, Justin, and their son Max have worked closely with Dr. Ruth and her husband, neurosurgeon Dr. William Loudon.
  • Ruth is passing on her knowledge as an associate faculty member in the College of Eastern Medicine at Southern California University of Health Sciences.
  • Acupuncture is the practice of inserting thin needles into specific points on the body to balance qi and energy flow.
  • Tui Na massage and acupressure are similar practices to acupuncture, but with the use of the massage instead of needles.
  • Medicinal herbs play an important role in Traditional Chinese Medicine and are used to encourage the flow of qi.
  • Cupping uses glass cups that are heated with fire then placed onto the body. The heat creates a suction effect and this is believed to increase blood flow and qi.
  • Moxibustion is similar to acupuncture, but moxa wool is burned on the meridians.
  • Qi is a key component of Traditional Chinese Medicine. It’s a vital energy that flows through the body and connects the individual to their surroundings and to others.
  • The Ohana Project is a partnership between Ruth and MaxLove Project that focuses on treating families affected by childhood cancer as a unit.
  • MaxLove’s BE SUPER action plan is a seven-point plan that helps childhood cancer families thrive!
  • Neurofibromatosis type II is a genetic disorder that causes benign tumors to grow on nerve tissue.
  • Dr. Gary Goodman is the medical director of CHOC’s pediatric intensive care unit.
  • NICU stands for neonatal intensive care unit. It’s where babies can get around-the-clock care from experts.
  • Children can receive around-the-clock care in the pediatric intensive care unit (PICU).
  • Longview Asylum was a state mental ward in Cincinnati It was closed in 1984.
  • Beechwood Home is a facility in Cincinnati that offers long-term care for neurological disorders.
  • The University of California, San Diego (UCSD) is located just minutes away from the beach.
  • Similar to Jenny Walters (Ep. 2), Ruth was an artist before she became a professional healer.
  • Gua sha is the practice of scraping your skin with a special massage tool in order to improve circulation.
  • Kriya yoga is a specific yoga practice with the main goal of spiritual growth.
  • “Discontent is the want of self-reliance...” is part of a longer quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson.
  • To learn more about the benefits of eating whole foods, take The Daily Thrive’s Nourish Masterclass!
  • Box breathing is a helpful tool that can help us take a moment to increase mindfulness and calm stress levels.
  • Studies show that it’s important to enjoy the exercise that we choose to partake in because it affects our exercise levels and frequency.
  • The Self-Realization Fellowship is a part of the Kriya yoga practice to help promote spiritual enlightenment.
  • Transcendental Meditation (TM) is “a meditative technique for avoiding distracting thoughts and promoting a state of relaxed awareness” through the use of a mantra.
  • Amanda Gorman is an American poet best known for her book “The Hill We Climb” and is the first National Youth Poet Laureate. To listen to the whole poem Ruth references, click here.
  • Some nursing homes are creating programs where children and seniors can interact with each other! This is beneficial to both parties, particularly seniors who may otherwise feel isolated.

In this episode

Audra and Justin reconnect with dear friend, partner in healing, and highly accomplished practitioner of Traditional Chinese Medicine, Dr. Ruth McCarty. Ruth discusses her beginnings as a healer, finding her calling for helping others, and the importance of using both Western and Eastern modalities to achieve holistic healing. Audra, Justin, and Ruth also talk about how true thriving happens when healthcare providers focus on the family as a whole, rather than an isolated individual.

Listen here



About our guest

Dr. Ruth McCarty, DACM, L.Ac specializes in Traditional Chinese Medicine and sees her patients at Children’s Hospital of Orange County (CHOC) and Open Mind Modalities. She earned her doctorate in Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine at Pacific College and completed fellowships in Pediatrics and Internal Medicine at the Traditional Chinese Medicine University Hospital in Shandong, China. Ruth comes from a long line of healers, and it’s her mission to treat her patients holistically through mind, body, and spirit.

Show notes

  • Audra, Justin, and their son Max have worked closely with Dr. Ruth and her husband, neurosurgeon Dr. William Loudon.
  • Ruth is passing on her knowledge as an associate faculty member in the College of Eastern Medicine at Southern California University of Health Sciences.
  • Acupuncture is the practice of inserting thin needles into specific points on the body to balance qi and energy flow.
  • Tui Na massage and acupressure are similar practices to acupuncture, but with the use of the massage instead of needles.
  • Medicinal herbs play an important role in Traditional Chinese Medicine and are used to encourage the flow of qi.
  • Cupping uses glass cups that are heated with fire then placed onto the body. The heat creates a suction effect and this is believed to increase blood flow and qi.
  • Moxibustion is similar to acupuncture, but moxa wool is burned on the meridians.
  • Qi is a key component of Traditional Chinese Medicine. It’s a vital energy that flows through the body and connects the individual to their surroundings and to others.
  • The Ohana Project is a partnership between Ruth and MaxLove Project that focuses on treating families affected by childhood cancer as a unit.
  • MaxLove’s BE SUPER action plan is a seven-point plan that helps childhood cancer families thrive!
  • Neurofibromatosis type II is a genetic disorder that causes benign tumors to grow on nerve tissue.
  • Dr. Gary Goodman is the medical director of CHOC’s pediatric intensive care unit.
  • NICU stands for neonatal intensive care unit. It’s where babies can get around-the-clock care from experts.
  • Children can receive around-the-clock care in the pediatric intensive care unit (PICU).
  • Longview Asylum was a state mental ward in Cincinnati It was closed in 1984.
  • Beechwood Home is a facility in Cincinnati that offers long-term care for neurological disorders.
  • The University of California, San Diego (UCSD) is located just minutes away from the beach.
  • Similar to Jenny Walters (Ep. 2), Ruth was an artist before she became a professional healer.
  • Gua sha is the practice of scraping your skin with a special massage tool in order to improve circulation.
  • Kriya yoga is a specific yoga practice with the main goal of spiritual growth.
  • “Discontent is the want of self-reliance...” is part of a longer quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson.
  • To learn more about the benefits of eating whole foods, take The Daily Thrive’s Nourish Masterclass!
  • Box breathing is a helpful tool that can help us take a moment to increase mindfulness and calm stress levels.
  • Studies show that it’s important to enjoy the exercise that we choose to partake in because it affects our exercise levels and frequency.
  • The Self-Realization Fellowship is a part of the Kriya yoga practice to help promote spiritual enlightenment.
  • Transcendental Meditation (TM) is “a meditative technique for avoiding distracting thoughts and promoting a state of relaxed awareness” through the use of a mantra.
  • Amanda Gorman is an American poet best known for her book “The Hill We Climb” and is the first National Youth Poet Laureate. To listen to the whole poem Ruth references, click here.
  • Some nursing homes are creating programs where children and seniors can interact with each other! This is beneficial to both parties, particularly seniors who may otherwise feel isolated.

In this episode

Audra and Justin reconnect with dear friend, partner in healing, and highly accomplished practitioner of Traditional Chinese Medicine, Dr. Ruth McCarty. Ruth discusses her beginnings as a healer, finding her calling for helping others, and the importance of using both Western and Eastern modalities to achieve holistic healing. Audra, Justin, and Ruth also talk about how true thriving happens when healthcare providers focus on the family as a whole, rather than an isolated individual.

Listen here



About our guest

Dr. Ruth McCarty, DACM, L.Ac specializes in Traditional Chinese Medicine and sees her patients at Children’s Hospital of Orange County (CHOC) and Open Mind Modalities. She earned her doctorate in Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine at Pacific College and completed fellowships in Pediatrics and Internal Medicine at the Traditional Chinese Medicine University Hospital in Shandong, China. Ruth comes from a long line of healers, and it’s her mission to treat her patients holistically through mind, body, and spirit.

Show notes

  • Audra, Justin, and their son Max have worked closely with Dr. Ruth and her husband, neurosurgeon Dr. William Loudon.
  • Ruth is passing on her knowledge as an associate faculty member in the College of Eastern Medicine at Southern California University of Health Sciences.
  • Acupuncture is the practice of inserting thin needles into specific points on the body to balance qi and energy flow.
  • Tui Na massage and acupressure are similar practices to acupuncture, but with the use of the massage instead of needles.
  • Medicinal herbs play an important role in Traditional Chinese Medicine and are used to encourage the flow of qi.
  • Cupping uses glass cups that are heated with fire then placed onto the body. The heat creates a suction effect and this is believed to increase blood flow and qi.
  • Moxibustion is similar to acupuncture, but moxa wool is burned on the meridians.
  • Qi is a key component of Traditional Chinese Medicine. It’s a vital energy that flows through the body and connects the individual to their surroundings and to others.
  • The Ohana Project is a partnership between Ruth and MaxLove Project that focuses on treating families affected by childhood cancer as a unit.
  • MaxLove’s BE SUPER action plan is a seven-point plan that helps childhood cancer families thrive!
  • Neurofibromatosis type II is a genetic disorder that causes benign tumors to grow on nerve tissue.
  • Dr. Gary Goodman is the medical director of CHOC’s pediatric intensive care unit.
  • NICU stands for neonatal intensive care unit. It’s where babies can get around-the-clock care from experts.
  • Children can receive around-the-clock care in the pediatric intensive care unit (PICU).
  • Longview Asylum was a state mental ward in Cincinnati It was closed in 1984.
  • Beechwood Home is a facility in Cincinnati that offers long-term care for neurological disorders.
  • The University of California, San Diego (UCSD) is located just minutes away from the beach.
  • Similar to Jenny Walters (Ep. 2), Ruth was an artist before she became a professional healer.
  • Gua sha is the practice of scraping your skin with a special massage tool in order to improve circulation.
  • Kriya yoga is a specific yoga practice with the main goal of spiritual growth.
  • “Discontent is the want of self-reliance...” is part of a longer quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson.
  • To learn more about the benefits of eating whole foods, take The Daily Thrive’s Nourish Masterclass!
  • Box breathing is a helpful tool that can help us take a moment to increase mindfulness and calm stress levels.
  • Studies show that it’s important to enjoy the exercise that we choose to partake in because it affects our exercise levels and frequency.
  • The Self-Realization Fellowship is a part of the Kriya yoga practice to help promote spiritual enlightenment.
  • Transcendental Meditation (TM) is “a meditative technique for avoiding distracting thoughts and promoting a state of relaxed awareness” through the use of a mantra.
  • Amanda Gorman is an American poet best known for her book “The Hill We Climb” and is the first National Youth Poet Laureate. To listen to the whole poem Ruth references, click here.
  • Some nursing homes are creating programs where children and seniors can interact with each other! This is beneficial to both parties, particularly seniors who may otherwise feel isolated.

Enjoying this? Subscribe to The Family Thrive for more healthy recipes, video classes, and more.


Justin:
Dr. Ruth McCarty holds a special place in our hearts. Not only is she a highly accomplished traditional Chinese medicine practitioner working within mainstream Western medicine, but she played a huge role in our son's recovery after his initial brain surgery back in 2011, and we found ways to work with her ever since. So we're thrilled to bring you this week's episode.

Ruth: Every day, it's a guarantee, there are going to be challenges and obstructions, but the secret to that is staying in the flow, being connected to spirit service, and when you were giving your life to others, and that's the point of your movement, then it doesn't matter what life throws in your way.

Justin: Ruth McCarty practices Traditional Chinese Medicine, delivering integrative care to residents of Orange County, California, from infancy to adulthood.

Dr. McCarty has spent her career working to integrate these methods into Western medical institutions to maximize the healing and comfort process for patients. This care is continued in her private practice, Open Mind Modalities with locations in Aliso Viejo and Orange, California. Today, she serves as the Clinical Director of Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine program at CHOC, Children's Hospital of Orange County in California.

She founded this program with her husband, neurosurgeon, William Loudon, MD PhD. She also serves as an associate faculty member at the Southern California University of Health Sciences in the College of Eastern Medicine. Dr. McCarty earned her doctorate degree of Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine at Pacific College of Oriental Medicine in San Diego, California, and completed internships at PCOM and at the San Diego Hospice Inpatient Care Center.

She completed fellowships in Pediatrics and Internal Medicine at the Traditional Chinese Medicine University Hospital in the Shandong province of China. Dr. McCarty has participated in medical missions to India, the Dominican Republic, and Kenya. Without further ado, here's our beautiful conversation with the inevitable Dr. Ruth McCarty.

Audra: Tell us what Traditional Chinese Medicine is.

Ruth: TCM, Traditional Chinese Medicine is a very old and eloquent system of medicine that's based on treatment modalities, initiating treatment modalities, that help the body heal itself. To help put harmony and balance into pathologies or illness that the body, the spirit, or the mind, it looks at the body as a whole kind of component to heal itself, and that's done with different treatment modalities like acupuncture, acupressure, massage, herbal medicine, cupping, Tui Na, moxibustion—those are all healing modalities that we offer in our clinic setting and in the hospital.

But one of the beautiful things about Chinese medicine, from the culture that it comes from, is that so many of these healing modalities, which are considered almost exotic in our culture, are part of the family tools at home to keep healthy. So herbs are used in cooking in China and in Asia. Therapeutic herbs that have healing properties are used in everyday cooking. Acupressure and moxibustion are therapies that are taught within family generations that are used at home to keep you healthy so you don't get sick, or even if you do get sick.

These are taught by your mother by your grandmother to keep you in a state of health. So that's, so where they’re considered they can be considered exotic in our culture, in one of the goals of the last 20 some years that I've been doing is to bring these into the home as part of the family toolbox for therapeutic care and prevention to keep our families healthy.

Audra: That's amazing. Most people don't think about when they think about, let's say acupuncture, because I don't think we, like most people who are not receiving care in this way, don't necessarily think of Traditional Chinese Medicine as a whole, but let's say acupressure is preventative, a lot of people think, think of these modalities is, “Hey, once you're injured, hurt or ill, I'm gonna go in and try this form of care,” but I think it is really powerful to think of the entire cultural-based lifestyle, it's really a lifestyle medicine in many ways, that to keep one healthy it that sounds like a balance to me. Not just focusing on sickness.

Ruth: Right, and that's been, I think one of the hardest things to impart or teach or even sell to my patient base is that you can use this medicine to stay healthy. Once people are integrated into care and they have been healed, then they understand it, but upfront to tell my patients, you do this so you don't end up sick, you do this to stay healthy, and that's really been an education process in my career too, because we're just not taught that in our culture.

Justin: No, I still am surprised for myself how I'll slip back into, I'll miss a couple days of meditation or some emotional processing practices and I'll start feeling kind of out of sorts again. It's like, “Oh yeah, this is like every other thing,” like eating healthy and working out, and that these are things that we have to do as a regular part of our lives, and we're not taught this when we're young.

Ruth: Agreed. And I think the word ‘practice’ is a really powerful word when you're thinking about self-care, it doesn't, the things that we practice to develop our self-care regime. I'm a meditator, I do yoga, but you need to put those healing modalities into that practice.

It's a really powerful word” ‘practice,’ and where people, and I'm afraid in our culture, it's all kind of a solution. What's the solution to this problem? And it's just they think of it as a one-time thing or a thing to get rid of that disharmony that you're feeling. But it needs to be a practice. It needs to be part of your life consistently.

Justin: Yeah, Ruth, can I just share this new theory that I have about Western culture, or at least the culture that I live in. Most of what we are sold and the regular things we do are avoidance stuff. It's like stuff to avoid dealing with emotional pain, with psychological issues, with... So whether it's scrolling our social media feed or anything else, it's all avoidance, it's all distraction. So these other practices are asking us to actively engage into...

Ruth: And when we do practice what happens? We become present, those are keywords, we become present in our practice where you're right, social media is the worst, and I’m as guilty as anybody. Although I have to say since we have a new president and a new administration, that my anxiety level and my news scrolling and my media scrolling has probably been cut by 92%.

Justin: Oh my gosh.

Ruth: Cuz I wake up in the morning and I'm like, “Oh, functioning adult.”

Justin: So I still kind of habitually listen to the news in the morning every day, and today I turned it on and the first thing they said is the president dut da du du da and I could feel my heart rate go up like, “Oh god, the president... What is he doing now?” I was like, “Oh wait, no, we have a different president now.”

Ruth: It’s so true.

Audra: So, Ruth can you tell us about the concept of, and you can correct me if I'm wrong, qi or chi, and you spoke of harmony and disharmony. I'd love to know more about this facet of Traditional Chinese Medicine.

Ruth: So qi is a word that is used in Chinese medicine. There are many, many different kinds of qi, and that is mostly referring to the different functions that energy have in our universe, in our body, but kind of as a base, qi is a natural life force within you, but it is also the life force in our world, in our universe, in our communities and our families, of how we relate to each other, of how our functions of our body relate to each other.

And when this qi is moving smoothly and freely and working the way it's supposed to, then we are in a state of harmony and things work. Like we all know when we've had a day and we've stayed in the flow. Like, what does that mean? Right, we've stayed in the flow where these connections and these relationships of this energy in our own body of how we relate to our family, of how we relate to our co-workers, of how we relate to nature around us is flowing freely. And that's when we have harmony.

One of the descriptions I use with kids and trying to talk about qi and how the free flow of qi means health and when it's not flowing freely is like, how do you feel when you're in the car with your mom and you're in a traffic jam on I-5, and you have to get somewhere and you can't get somewhere and you've gotta go to practice? Or you have to go to school? Or you're trying and you get, start getting caught and you start getting frustrated, and then everyone's voices raise and that's where qi is stuck. It's really easy to explain to kids what that feels like, and to adults.

Audra: They get it.

Ruth: Right. Yeah, yeah. So it's staying... Harmony is staying in that flow.

Audra: Yeah, yeah, that's what I wonder to have kids are more in touch with... “Yes, I'm in flow. No, I'm not,” because I feel like being with kids, they express it so beautifully.

Ruth: They have no filters.

Audra: Right, right.

Ruth: There's none of these filters and these protective shields that we all put up as adults or that avoidance thing. They're just kind of right in the, they're good at staying in the flow.

Audra: Right, right in it. So how does that affect your practice and because you work a lot with kids, you have a very unique practice from what I've learned about Traditional Chinese Medicine and the modalities you use, because you see adults and kids, you see a very large amount of folks with complex cases, complex diseases, and you work inpatient at Children's Hospital of Orange County as well.

You straddle the Eastern and Western, if you will, because you know a ton about the Western modalities, you're very, very well-versed in, in Western medicine, and I think it's one reason why your patients trust you so much because they know that you know what they're talking about in their treatment plans at the hospital, but you also are a doctor of Chinese medicine, and so there is that translational work that you do.

So I'm really interested in what it's like to treat kids and how they can speak to that flow or those blockages and represent that.

Ruth: So, I think the first thing I'm going to address in that eloquent description of my practice, which I thank you, is that you cannot treat a child without treating the parents, you just can’t.

Justin: We know that first hand.

Ruth: You can't. You have to address those family relationships, because what does a child look to the parent or the caregiver for? They look to them for everything. So to try to just change a disharmony, whether it's physical or emotional or spiritual, you have to address the connection between the parent and the child. And that's something that I think is not unique in Chinese medicine, that is part of the Chinese medicine approach to harmony. But I think that's unique within our practice, how it's implemented.

Audra: Yes.

Ruth: Even in the hospital. I may not be able to do acupuncture in the hospital, but we can do other things, or even being attentive and listening and present for parents has a huge therapeutic effect.

Audra: Huge.

Ruth: Huge.

Audra: Huge, yup.

Ruth: I think that's probably one of the most important things we do in our clinic, in our practice, is that we treat the family as a whole, which you guys know.

Audra: Well, absolutely, and it’s groundbreaking, Ruth, this gets into how we met, and so I really wanna go into that story a little bit and just put a pin in something before I do. I hope that we live to see a day where when a child is admitted to the hospital, or like our son, Max was directly to the ICU, that the entire family is put into care, take our insurance cards. All of us. Sign us all up. You know what I mean? Why does it have to be segmented? I asked for an aspirin that first night, I had the worst headache I've ever had, and they said, “Sorry, Mom, we can't do anything for you.”

Ruth: And it would be, I agree.

Audra: So we have to take your approach and the values behind this Traditional Chinese Medicine approach of treating the whole family to our greater healthcare system would be amazing. And this is what we saw beginning to be realized in our Ohana Project.

And so MaxLove Project had this wonderful, wonderful research study that we initiated with you, with Open Mind Modalities with Children's Hospital of Orange County, focused on a family-based approach to integrative health that included acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine. And the reason why we did this is because we learned first-hand ourselves and with countless other families, the value of what you provide.

And so we met, oh Ruth, it was nine-and-a-half years ago now. We met in the hospital. Our neurosurgeon is also your partner, your life partner, your husband. And he softly suggested that we see, he asked if we're interested in Traditional Chinese Medicine because you, his wife, practices in the hospital, and it was offered, and I think I remember being in such shock. I had no idea what the hell was going on, I knew we were open to it, but I didn't know what we could handle.

And so you just, I think gently came back and before we knew it, we were getting, going in and getting acupuncture with you before Max’s chemotherapy, after his chemotherapy every week, we were,  every time he was in the hospital you were there, and you’ve been his healer, one of his healers, I know that he has had a few, including your husband.

But you've been that presence for us and so many others, and one of the most beautiful things that came out of our time with you is not only an appreciation for the power of Traditional Chinese Medicine, personally. Like Max wouldn't know how to describe it, but he would just, I knew because he wanted to go. He's also an Aquarius, also a man of few words, but he always feels better.

Right, so one of the most magical things that happened is you have something that you offer that many, I don't know that there's another practice like it, where you offer a group treatment. And so we would be in the waiting room with all of these families who wanted to be treated together and we, the community that we built together, and now that you describe qi, that's what's flowing between all of us, right? That’s a power there.

Ruth: That's the perfect example of it.

Audra: This is how our work together was born. The MaxLove Project was born first as a service project, a way to give back and to build community, and seeing the power of what you are doing and combining that with our other BE SUPER action points that we developed, especially our work on nutrition. We just knew that we had to work together. The Ohana Project was born, we opened an office together in Orange, California, and the work continues. I know we have some really big dreams together too, but this is how... This is how we met, and I do believe that we're connected at such a deep level, and we're so grateful for you, Ruth.

Ruth: It’s likewise. I think one of the greatest losses of this pandemic with COVID is... Well, besides all the lives and the trauma, but I can't do community acupuncture in my waiting room because it's not safe. And I see the loss of that flow between the families, it's heartbreaking, it's heartbreaking. And I just pray and can't wait for the day that we can do that again.

Audra: So deeply therapeutic, empowering, powerful. I hear from all of the families is just, it's a huge hole in all of our lives. I think you're right, this is like a big part of the fallout from COVID, and as we come back into it, I know that it's a thing that we won't be taking for granted, for sure.

Ruth: That, that's my favorite part of my practice is how busy and beautiful my waiting room gets and the interaction between the kids and the parents, and the parents with other kids and... Oh my gosh. And the grandparents... And it's a beautiful, beautiful thing.

Audra: What you've created is a space for healing, and so as you're like physically and energetically working on that flow and really helping the flow of qi, I think, can’t this sort of thing happen everywhere, anywhere?

Ruth: Of course it can.

Audra: Every hospital...

Ruth: Of course it can.

Audra: …waiting room? We just don't think like that. So it's one thing that I love about what you do and the effect that you have, bringing your work into the hospital, is that it starts to seep in maybe more slowly than you and I would want... You've been doing this for a really long time. But what are some of the effects of your practice that you've seen change maybe some of the little things in the hospital, even interactions or things with associates and clinicians?

Ruth: I think to begin with, I started out one patient at a time. I told this story, I think I told this story to a parent yesterday, which I tell the story a lot because I'm asked, how did this start? Right. How did this start? And it started, I was treating a neurofibromatosis type II, which is benign tumors in your central nervous system or brain and spine.

And this young man, I think he was 12 when he started, Bill... Dr. Loudon did probably over 50 surgeries on his brain and spine, right. And he would have a pretty good quality of life after, but he would have intractable nausea and vomiting after surgery, not one cocktail, many, many drugs would touch it. Horrible. It would be horrible.

He was just constantly on IV fluids, it was so painful to watch, and I had been treating him out-patient, did not have in-patient privileges yet, and I went to round with Dr. Loudon on a Saturday afternoon, just to round in the hospital too, 'cause I knew he was in the hospital, he was a very beloved San Clemente hometown, local boy. And God bless Dr. Gary Goodman, who was the intensivist on that day. His kids, knew Taylor, it was just a very energetically connected group.
And Dr. Loudon looked at Dr. Goodman and said, “Give her temporary privileges,” as poor Taylor is just puking his brains out bedside and his parents feel so helpless to help him.

And Dr. Goodman said, “Okay.” And had him within hours, and that's how it started, and of course within 15 minutes of getting acupuncture, his nausea and vomiting stopped. That’s one of the truly miraculous effects of treatment, and it's so beautiful. And after I had temporary privileges, they started feeding me, “Can you help this, can you help that?” It was like I wasn't getting paid, but I was getting the opportunity to treat these kids in the hospital, and that started the path on getting permanent privileges, which was over a year process of going to medical executive committees.

And the first question they asked me, I'm like, I'm so nervous and I’ve prepared. And the first question they asked me is “Do you use sterile needles?” and I just like...

Audra: No, I use dirty ones. I just have one needle that I use for everybody.

Ruth: The education process of, we’re certified in clean needle technique and the entry-level degree to practice Chinese medicine at that time was a mass of four-years Masters. And then people go like, they just didn't know, it was ignorance.

Audra: Right.

Ruth: And the process after, through education, oh my gosh, was they were really happy to have me there. They were really happy to be able to offer this to patients.

Audra: And how many years has it been now?

Ruth: That was in 2002—well, it was 2001, and it took a year to get permanent privileges in 2002.

Audra: It's incredible. And how many folks do you have practicing with you at the hospital now?

Ruth: We now have... There's three credential practitioners. I'm having two more credentialed as we speak, they're in the process of getting their privileges. And then we have the internship program with Southern California Health Science Universities where I have doctoral students come in and intern with me and round and treat patients. That program is really great because practitioners are getting the opportunity to treat critical care, to treat NICU, to treat these types of patients you'd never see outpatient.

Audra: Right, right. And so it's from the NICU to the PICU, really? All the way through.

Ruth: All the way through.

Audra: It's incredible, and then you have the clinics where you can, where you can see these patients when they're home.

Ruth: Right. Continuity of care.

Audra: Oh it's beautiful. Beautiful, Ruth. That makes me think, we've talked about this incredible journey you've had.

Ruth: But let me go back to that last point. The point was, it was one patient at a time, that's how it's started, right? And that's how anything that lasts or anything of significance, it's just that one step that leads to the next step, and we have, all three of us, right? We have these giant aspirations, but we're gonna do it one step at a time.

Justin: So Ruth, now I wanna go back to the first step for you. How did this all begin where you knew you wanted to become a healer, and then acupuncture was gonna be your modality?

Ruth: So I've had some, still have, amazing mentors in my life of women healers. I think the most prominent being my mom, who was a nurse and a healer. And I was thinking about this, my great-grandmother was a sound healer.

Audra: Oh, really?

Ruth: And she was an herbalist and…

Justin: Wow.

Ruth: When my great-grandma was, when she came to live with us, I grew up in a multi-generational family, both my great-grandmas lived with us at one point, my grandma lived with us at one point, which I think we miss a lot in our culture from not having multi-generational families, because I got to see and benefit from their wisdom.

But my great-grandmother was, she lived such a sparse life, she was so ahead of her time, she recycled everything, she had her Bible, her little, she would make little vials of healing tinctures and then she would do this really beautiful sound healing, which I'm so sorry she did not give to me, but she kinda had dementia by the time she came to live with us. And she would just walk around and over you, she'd made these little “hrrrr, hrrr…”

My mom said when she was young, she would take my mom out into the country, they lived like rural country, she would take my mom when she was a child out into the country and go to these farms where there were no doctors, and with her little tinctures and do sound healing over them. Fascinating.

Justin: Wow, so this is like indigenous European, ancient European, folk healing.

Ruth: Folk healing at its finest. And then my mom took a more traditional route, and she was a nurse. She did a lot of home health care off the clock, she worked in a hospital. My mom was a very accomplished nurse, ran a hospital, worked in all kinds of units, but she was always doing, well, you have to go back to the basis like, I am a child of God in service, right. And that's how my mom raised me. We live our life in service to our creator, and we do it through helping others in healing.

So she was constantly taking me out into the... I never knew where we were going when I was a kid. She took me to Long View Asylum on the weekends. This is like a mental... It's a mental hospital. It's an asylum. It was the scariest place. And I was young enough for... I don't even know what we did there, but she would carry me in, so I was young enough to be carried.

And it was a scary place. She had to go through opening the locked gates, and I remember the attendants, they would cut cigarettes up into little pieces and they'd be allowed to smoke a cigarette like that big. And they were constantly wanting to touch me 'cause I was like, this child, right, and this was such a dark, scary place, but I don't even know what my mom did there. She did some kind of healing, nursing, something there.

Justin: Okay, I just have to ask about this story, Ruth. Can you remember how you felt?

Ruth: I was terrified. But my mom constantly, that was part of our, my training as to be in service, because you're in service to all mankind.

Audra: Right, right.

Ruth: That was my mom would... What I do remember, my mom would go in and the most wretched humans in this place... And they were wretched. Oh my god, mental, state mental hospitals back then, they probably... I don't even know if we have them anymore, so wretched, she would wash feet. She would go in and wash feet of the most wretched of wretched, poor people, completely out of their minds, and administer love and care to them. That's my earliest like memories.

Audra: And you're right. She did give that to you, right? And it's not just showing you all the beautiful things, it's inviting you into all of it.

Ruth: I can, from doing stuff like that, I can walk... I am confident to walk into this precarious situations.

Justin: Right, that's what I was thinking, that here you have this, this spiritual act of grace at the same time you're experiencing terror. And to like, to hold these two things together is amazing.

Ruth: I had this blonde like crazy hair when I was little, and I just remember them, the patients and their fingernails were so dirty and they weren’t... It was a scary place, but they all wanted to touch my hair, touch me…

Justin: Oh my gosh.

Audra: I can just imagine the light you brought in there.

Ruth: It was a great, that was the beginning, I was probably three or four years old then. It was great training.

And then when I was in elementary school, my mom, this is where I got my real start, my mom was the Director of Nursing at the Beachwood Home of the Incurable and Beachwood Home, it was like a nursing home. But in the turn of the century, if your child was born with developmental delays or cerebral palsy, or if your child contracted polio, you were institutionalized. You didn't get to bring your kid home, that was like, in our culture, it’s crazy, right? In other cultures, they don't do that, your child was put in an institution.

So this wealthy Procter and Gamble in Cincinnati, Procter and Gamble family, had a daughter with CP, with cerebral palsy, and they built the Beachwood Home for the Incurable. It was a beautiful, old type, marble floored mansion that they built this place to give their child a home.

So they started this home for these kids, as these kids grew up, it turned into a nursing home for geriatrics, and by the time my mom was the director of this place, it was all geriatric patients, but some of them had lived there since they were little kids. And I would go there every day after school, that's where I hung out, and all of these patients were my friends, like I would go and sit, the stories were fascinating, amazing stories that, um.

One of my best friends was Charlotte, who, she was in her 60s or 70s, no, she was older than that. Her 80s at the time, but she had contracted polio as a child, and her legs did not grow, she had... She was like a little doll, and she was in this big wheel chair, but she was an adult, and when she was, I think 19... This was way back in the early 1900s—when she was 19, he fell in love with an orderly, and if you were handicapped, you could not get married...You cannot get married. You could not have children. You were institutionalized.

So, she told me the story so many times, so this orderly, got a basket and rigged a rope, and he was going to lower her from the second story of the Beachwood Home for the Incurable and they were gonna run away together. And they got caught.

Audra: Oh my god.

Ruth: And he was fired and she never saw him again. And she had a picture of him by her bed.

Audra: Oh, heartbreaking.

Ruth: Oh my god, it was... I heard so many stories like that, they're truly beautiful. Oh gosh. So they grew up institutionalized, these kids, and I have found that I think I treat a lot of special needs kids in my practice, and I'm sure that's where I got my start. I love treating special needs kids, they're just such beautiful, light, joyous souls.

But another thing that happened to me there, because it was a nursing home, a geriatric, is that's where I got my start in end of-life care. And I would know who was on their way out and I would... I just knew, and I would sit, sometimes I'd sit... They had these really high beds, I think, 'cause it made it easier for the staff, but when I was little, I could sit under their beds. So when patients were dying, oftentimes either it was to stay out of the way, I don't know why, but I'd sit under their beds with them, or I'd sit with them until they left.

And it was, the one thing I want to tell, there are so many things to talk about end-of-life care, but the one thing I want your listeners to know is that adults and children from doing end-of-life care at CHOC and in my practice, they do not leave unprepared. They do not leave unprepared, they are visited and prepared, and it can be so difficult and heartbreaking, but where, you don't leave alone and you don't leave unprepared.

Justin: Ruth, I’m having a realization that we need to schedule another interview just to talk about end-of-life care.

Ruth: There’s a lot to talk about.

Justin: This is such a great topic. It might strike listeners to The Family Thrive like, “Hey, this is a little dark,” but every family is dealing with end-of-life care.

Ruth: We’re all gonna die.

Justin: …It's gonna touch everybody. And so this podcast is not just about the happy, great parts of family life, which of course it is, but it's also gonna be about these painful parts of the journey that people like you know a lot about. And we would really love to really open up and have a lot of time with this.

Audra: Yeah, I'm really interested just for a moment, as we keep continuing in your journey, learning about your journey, Ruth, to know as... So as a child and a young person, you are... It sounds like you were just attuned to the transition. And you just... You just knew.

Ruth: It wasn't something I learned, definitely. It was just something that I was aware of from my earliest, earliest, earliest memories.

Audra: And you were not scared. You wanted to be with people.

Ruth: No, I was never scared. I don't know, maybe my mom carried me into the mental asylum...

Audra: It's so powerful, Ruth, and we need more of you and your voice and your perspective to help us have these conversations and normalize what is the most normal aspect of humanity that we haven't normalized, you know.

Ruth: And we've so avoided it in our culture. It's horrible how we've avoided it. It's horrible. We all suffer because of it.

Audra: So much. So much, and then we avoid that suffering.

Ruth: And then we get sick.

Audra: But it's beautiful. So you transition with people, you chose to be there with people as they’re transitioning, and you've done that ever since.

Ruth: Ever since. My whole life. Yes, and I think the path that I've been following with my practice and in the hospital has allowed me to do more of that, and I'm so grateful. I'm so grateful. It's some of the most beautiful, amazing. It's the point of your whole life are those moments when you make that transition. Truly, truly.

Audra: So you grew up in this, imagine this, maternal line of matriarch healers.

Ruth: True.

Audra: And I could see them almost as you're describing this journey, and you end up in San Diego, California as an art major.

Ruth: Yes. So, I have to be honest about this. I grew up in Ohio. I really did not enjoy the Midwest because I like to be outside all the time. I found great joy and comfort in nature, and it's hard to do that when it's either too hot and humid to be outside or too cold to be outside.

Audra: Right, right.

Ruth: So I, from a really early age, my mom told me before I was five, I started telling her I'm moving to California. And she was like, “What? Yeah, whatever. ” I had never been here, I had never been here before I moved here.

Audra: You just knew.

Ruth: So I moved to California, and when I got here, I was like, “Are you kidding me? People have lived like this the whole time and I didn't know.” I picked my college, I went to UCSD, University of California, San Diego, but I picked my college solely on its location.

Audra: And art.

Justin: And the ocean and you’ve never left.

Ruth: I was pursuing art. And it had a great art program, but it was mostly because of where it was located.

Audra: You know what, one thing that was really interesting that we had a podcast with earlier, our wonderful friend and contributor to The Family Thrive, Jenny Walters, and she is also a healer. She's a therapist, psychologist who was a fine art photographer, and she described, Justin, do you remember how she said that she described how therapy and doing art made her feel the same way because it was in touch with the same thing. It was in touch with the same healing, it was in touch with, there's some sort of…

Justin: Some energetic flow.

Audra: It was energetic. She was like, once I got that, I saw... So was there a relationship for you between that art creative, artistic process for you?

Ruth: Absolutely. I mean, art is an expression of your soul. And your soul is every aspect, your mental, spiritual, physical... Every aspect. In the art I did, I did collective pieces and sculpture, I was a dumpster diver in college. I was like... I think it goes back to my great-grandmother, the recycler way before her time, found a use for every single thing, but I was constantly rescuing things and trying to make something beautiful out of it, and it does... It touches your soul. That's why art... And Chinese medicine is an art. So many Chinese medicine practitioners have previous art histories.

Justin: Well, that makes sense. Yeah.

Audra: Yeah, it's really cool. So, then you became an acupuncturist. You found your way.

Ruth: My path, it's so long and varied. I moved to California, went to UCSD, and while I was in college, I became a first responder and beach lifeguard. Which was another way to be able to sit outside and such a gift to watch the sun traverse the sky and all the things that happened in nature, and it was part of my service, I was serving people, keeping people safe. The first responder aspect, I was really interested in healthcare. It served that need.

Because it was kind of a seasonal job, that meant that I had months when it wasn't the season to travel and surf. So I was living the endless summer traveling all over the world, surfing, immersing myself in different cultures, learning about their art and their healing practices. It was... And honestly, I would have done it forever.

Audra: What changed?

Ruth: I had... Well, I think God was giving me little nudges saying, you can't do the endless summer thing forever, and I didn't listen. So I went from being a very fit, high trained person using my physical abilities to perform my job, to breaking my neck and laying in bed for, in chronic pain for months, a year.

Audra: Did you break your neck surfing?

Ruth: No, it was an accident. But having my whole... So much of my identity was wrapped up in my physical abilities, and all of a sudden I had none. So I had to do a lot of soul searching, dealing with heavy, heavy... It's hard. Depression, when you can't... Chronic pain is horrible. But that experience, when a person walks into my clinic or I am consulted on a person in terrible pain or chronic pain, I know that look in their eye.

Justin: You know.

Ruth: I have great empathy for that. So I sought out alternative medicine because Western medicine had nothing to offer me once my structural, my bones were healed, I had terrible soft tissue injury. And that just wasn't healing. And Western medicine doesn't have a lot to offer for that chronic condition. Ao I sought out acupuncture, I sought out Chinese medicine, helped me so much within three months of getting my first treatment, I was enrolling in graduate school to become a Chinese medicine practitioner.

Justin: Wow. Wow. Oh, what I'm hearing here is a connection to something that we've talked about earlier, not on this podcast, but in the past, your definition for thriving, you told me was moving through life without obstruction. And so this point in your life, you broke your neck, total chronic pain, feels like a huge obstruction. What's striking me right now is that that obstruction led to something really beautiful.

Ruth: I think I'm hard-headed, I don't know.

Justin: Well, can you talk more about your definition of thriving?

Ruth: Yeah, thriving when I... And that's gonna go back to staying in the flow. When I said moving through life without obstruction, that doesn't mean life without challenges, because that's a guarantee. Every day it’s a guarantee, there are going to be challenges and obstructions that the secret to that is staying in the flow, and for me, it's staying connected to spirit and service. And when you are giving your life to others, and that's the point of your movement then it doesn't matter what life throws in your way.

'Cause, this is for me, if I stay on the path of service and I stay giving my life to God, then I know it doesn't, I know I'm on the right path, no matter what gets thrown my way. That's kind of the deeper meaning of that for me, yeah.

Audra: So Ruth, you spent time in China after graduate school?

Ruth: I did. Yes.

Audra: And can you tell us some of these experiences when it comes to flow, when it comes to that definition of thriving. Did you have any experience with some of these ways of looking at life and existence in Chinese culture in a different way than presents here?

Ruth: So China, my experience in China was one of great contradiction. I thought I was so excited to go and the medicine was beautiful, wonderful. It was a great experience as far as the medicine. Living in a very communist country where people are constantly in fear of the government, constant, it’s not like it is now. So that part was... It was hard for me. Quality of life for people in China when I was there was really difficult. It was so difficult. There was the... A culture that is so old, you’d think that they would have waste management down. But they don’t.

Audra: No.

Ruth: Oh, it's horrible. I just couldn't believe that. How you guys understand Chinese medicine, the flow and obstruction, and so I just... They didn't put a lot of value on people, which was hard for me. People treating each other like family units, I never saw an elderly person come to a doctor's appointment by themselves.

Elderly were revered there, even if there were no elevators in the Chinese medicine hospital, so you had to take the stairs. And if an elderly person came, I saw elderly people come in wheelbarrows wrapped in beautifully homemade silk quilts and then the family members would carry the wheelbarrow up the stairs. It was just like so many contradictions in China.

But one of the most beautiful things I saw was how Chinese medicine was used in the family unit with cooking of these medicinal herbs and practices like moxibustion and Tui Na, and gua sha was used at home preventatively, that was a really beautiful thing. But man, it was hard watching how little value was put on life there from the government’s standpoint.

Audra: So dynamic, and it sounds like such a deep resistance in the communist regime to the culture.

Ruth: Yes.

Audra: And to the history of China, it was like...

Ruth: It was shocking to me. I came home so thankful for public restrooms and plumbing, and I've been all over the world. I'm not like a faint of heart traveler, but I think the massive humanity there also was shocking to me, just how many people... And I rode my bike, I got a bike and would ride to the hospital every day. I was the only person wearing a bike helmet, nobody wears a, millions of bikers. There are so many head injuries in China. I would go the same... Right, the same route to the hospital every day and people would point out at me and go “Big head, big head!”

Justin: So Ruth, I wanna shift gears real quick, so you've said in the past that if you have one self-care piece of advice for parents that it would be “Breathe.” And I know you’ve... I think you've told us this in the past too, I think I actually remember you telling me this in 2011 when I brought Max in for the first time, like “Dad, breathe.” So can you tell more about, is it a special type of breathing... What... Can you talk more about this piece of advice?

Ruth: So we're gonna get back to that word of practice again, and self-care. Part of my daily practice is Kriya yoga, which is a breath technique, to develop a closer relationship with God. That's the basis of it.

Now, what goes along with doing breathing techniques, there are many types of breathing techniques, Kriya is just the one that I practice. But it brings you, besides all the physiological benefits that happens to your body, it brings you into the present to breathe, right?

And if you are being present and not stressing out about what could be or what has been and staying present, that's what I think what breathing really does, is that your anxiety level would go down and you will put yourself back into that flow with spirit. So my practice, I have a pretty... And what you were talking about the beginning, Justin, when if I fall out of my practice, man, I know I'm gonna pay. It's not like, it's not like I have to do this, it's like, if I don't do this, what will happen?

So my practice involves, I do a good hour of meditation every morning and breathing techniques, and that includes just being quiet and sitting with God, and then I do a lot of dialogue with God.

Justin: Is there any special or is there any quick breathing practice that you can give parents? Like if things are really intense, is there just a quick method?

Ruth: Yes, if you count your breaths in. If you just do, count the time of taking a breath in for five seconds, hold it for five seconds and exhale it for five seconds. If you do that 10 times, your whole physiological make-up will be different, your mind... It will be so different just doing that.

Audra: Ruth, I love that. I think it's a really beautiful, tangible first step, baby step, but also just a daily thing to incorporate in one's life. Right, that's something that you can take a second to do. You can set your watch, you can set up some reminders to do something like that throughout the day. I wanted to ask you, this isn't just advice you give, you give parents through your practice and that you practice yourself, but you're also a mom. And we haven't talked about... We haven't talked about that yet.

We absolutely love your beautiful son, Jesse who is now a full grown man. It’s amazing. And of course, you and Dr. Loudon share a family. Do you impart any of this on your kids, is this something that these practices... Do you share these practices with them?

Ruth: Yes, actually, I just want us, being a mom, best thing ever, best, best, best, best thing I've ever done. Heather, you know Heather, one of our practitioners, just had a baby.

Audra: Oh Heather had her baby, congrats!

Ruth: She had a boy, so beautiful, and it's just the best thing you can do, just... Gosh. It's the best gift from God ever. Children, but all of our kids, we have four kids between us, all of our kids always wanted Chinese medicine but nobody went that path, so I'm hoping, I became a grandma this year, this past year for the second generation. But yeah, they all... Jesse's a meditator, he’s really about good food and healthy lifestyle, and Elliot, the oldest son is a firefighter, Emily's a nurse, his wife, we've... I think we've imparted the idea of service onto our kids.

Audra: Absolutely.

Ruth: I think I had more influence on Jesse that Jesse's really taken the ‘be still’ concept and run with it, and he has a practice. Definitely.

Audra: How is that... Is that for you with... I can imagine a parent listening to this thinking, “Okay, how do I get started?” Was it... Is it modeling the way... Did you have open conversations? Did you do it together? How did this start for Jesse?

Ruth: From day one, of course. I asked, it was funny, I asked Bill and Jesse, your last questions that you put your MaxLove questions, about your quotes. And Jesse was... I raised Jesse, as my mom raised me, with a lot of Ralph Waldo Emerson. And Jesse's quote was a Ralph Waldo Emerson quote  that I wrote above his bed. I think when he was in, when school was getting kinda hard, maybe like sixth, seventh, eighth grade I wrote... “Discontent is the want of self-reliance” above his bed on the wall, and that was the quote he gave me. “Like of course Mom, that one.

Audra: Of course. That's awesome.

Justin: It starts early.

Ruth: Well, you have to start it early, 'cause those practices, man, it takes a long time to... I tried to get him to start breathing and meditating way earlier than he really embraced it. It takes a long time to find your way, but I just wanted him to be aware it was there.

Justin: Yeah, and just patience.

Ruth: Yeah you have to take those steps and figure it out, that's part of the life. But as an adult, you wanna tell your kids, but you can bypass so much angst.

Justin: Well the research, the research shows that parents, when parents eat healthier, their kids are more... Or when parents eat whole foods, their kids are more likely to eat whole foods later in life, and same with exercising. So I imagine there's gotta be something with meditation and breathing and these practices as well, that you don't need to force it on them, but if they see that it's a regular part of your life, that it will eventually start to weave itself into their life.

Ruth: And that has panned out. He's a daily meditator. And he says the same thing, “Oh, man life gets too hard if I don't do it.”

Audra: That's really powerful, Ruth. It makes me think that for parents who are looking to find that first place to start, that the breathing technique that you talked about, the five seconds or the box breathing technique is a great place to start and when potentially when something blows up with your child, like let's say you're in a moment, everyone's having a moment, the big feelings are coming out. One of the things that we can do is, “Hey, let's just breathe together for a minute. Can we do that?”

Ruth: So powerful, so powerful. And there are so many apps and ways now that it's so accessible to everybody.

Justin: Yeah, and like... Well, so the consensus recommendation on exercise amongst researchers and physicians who are into this is that just find the exercise type that you like, just find what you like and do that. And I think because we have, now have so many different meditation apps and approaches, I think the same thing could be said for that. Find the one that you like. Find the way that it works for you.

Ruth: Absolutely, there's not just one way to do anything. Oh my gosh. We're also different as human beings, you know?

Audra: Yeah, Ruth, how did you connect with... Okay, so you told us that your most important self-care practice is meditation, we talked about breathing, we talked about your breathing practice and a bit about your meditation practice… Can you tell us how you connected with your meditation practice and what does it look like for you? How did you learn it?

Ruth: I do Kriya yoga, that's part of the Self-Realization Fellowship, and I think living in... I lived in Encinitas and Del Mar, where they have a center there that they teach it. So it was local, and it just called to me. I was just very, very comfortable there. It's not a religion. It is, they teach a practice to develop your own relationship with God and that just... That spoke to me.

Audra: Yeah, in your family. Do you find that, that... I know your husband meditates as well. We know…

Ruth: He does.

Audra: Dr. Loudon, very well. He's very dear to us also, and he's very open about his meditation practice, does he... Does he follow a similar practice or do something else call to him?

Ruth: He started doing TM when he was younger, and then last year, he started in doing the Kriya techniques. So we do Kriya together, it's a really nice way, we try to end the day. This year, I have time to do it sometimes, like my main practice is in the morning, first thing when I get up, and then we do... Not always at the end of the day.

But what I've been doing with Dr. Loudon now, I think his schedule has changed a little bit so I can throw this in. So at the end of the day, we're doing down dog, so we're doing more yoga, physical yoga, and then that always... I found if I can get him to do that. So I do my... I do an hour of that when I get home from work every day, and he always gets home later than me. So then I tack on to 20 minutes for him and help him, and then we're in a much better position to sit down and meditate.

Audra: That is awesome, that resonates with me as a physicality kind of first like I have found that doing stretching, you call it yoga or stretching, and then breathing, and then in terms of a practice for me has been really helpful.

Ruth: It's really hard after a day of work to just come and sit down and be quiet, you have to do something to let go of all that stuff. And stretching has been really positive for both of us like that.

Justin: So Ruth, you alluded to these final questions that we have, and so these are three questions that we ask every podcast guest, and I love the fact that you ask these to Bill and Jesse as well. So if you wanna share their answers, we would...we'd love to hear it, but let's start... Let's start with the first one. So, Ruth, if you could put a big post-it note on every parent's fridge tomorrow morning, what would it say?

Ruth: So mine, it would say “Love God.” That would be mine. I asked my husband this morning as he was leaving, and he said, “Hug your kids.”

Justin: Oh my gosh. Coming from him, he knows what's behind that too. Yeah, there's a lot of depth there.

Ruth: And the one from Jesse, I felt like, oh, I succeeded in some way, Jesse was “Pack your kids a healthy lunch.”

Justin: Right on the fridge. Perfect.

Ruth: I thought it was funny.

Audra: Oh, that's awesome. So we talked about the quote a little bit, we talked about Jesse's quote, what is the last quote that changed the way you think or feel?

Ruth: Oh, it was so powerful, and I'm going to use the sweet dear Amanda Gorman. Oh my gosh.

Audra: Isn’t she so powerful. Isn’t she?

Ruth: Yeah, so powerful. “For it’s our grief that gives us our gratitude, shows us how to find hope if we ever lose it, to ensure that this ache wasn't endured in vain, do not ignore the pain, give it purpose. Use it.”

Audra: Yes, yes, yes.

Justin: Love that.

Ruth: She is so young. Gosh, all the beautiful stuff that we'll get from her.

Audra: Everything. I'm voting for her. I’m on the campaign team.

Justin: She's not running. But you're voting.

Audra: She said she will.

Justin: Oh, cool. Me too. So our final question is really just the context of it, is that when you're in the thick of parenting and it's just the daily grind and everything's going on, it's so easy just to sit back and be like, “Oh my god, kids, they're driving me crazy.” But we want to just end this by celebrating kids because kids are amazing, and so what is your favorite thing about kids?

Ruth: Their joy. Kids are so joyful, even in the worst of the worst. They will find some little thing to be joy about. It’s just so, so connected, they're still so connected to the source… I think we forget it as adults.

Justin: I love that. So all of the things that we do to protect ourselves from pain: all the avoidance and the distractions are also keeping us from the joy, and that’s what the kids don't have as all those avoidant coping walls built up yet.

Ruth: They'll be so honest about how terrible something can be, and then in the next second, be so joyous about how something can be.

Justin: Oh, there's wisdom there right? It's like, you gotta take the pain and the joy, the grief and the love. It's all there together.

Ruth: Exactly.

Audra: You know what Ruth? It really strikes me. I've learned so much about this in the childhood cancer journey with Max and with all of the other families we've walked with, and along the same lines always inspires me how the kids keep us going, 'cause all they want to do is just to do them.

Ruth: That’s true. I wanna share this.

Audra: Yes, yes.

Ruth: Because when we were talking about not having my waiting room going, right. I have a busy clinic. I have five or six treatment rooms and my waiting room going at the same time. And once we went into COVID and opened back up, and I didn't have a waiting room, in the middle of my day I was like, “Why am I so tired? Like do I have something wrong with me?” And I realized I wasn't like that qi that I get from an over packed waiting room wasn't there. It was a big adjustment for me.

Audra: The waiting room qi. Now, it's a beautiful, beautiful thing to point out, and in the family unit, we talk a lot about how we need to care for the whole family, and I think parents being aware of qi and kind of their own energetic flow or lack thereof, and how we can be impacting our kids, but also recognizing how our kids are positively and powerfully impacting us with that energy.

Ruth: So true, so true. Oh, gosh I should just see a happy kid. Just see a happy kid and I'm like...

Audra: Right. Have you seen, I think it was a news article on these nursing homes, and was it in Canada? That are combining orphanages and nursing homes.

Ruth: Oh that is such a great idea.

Justin: That’s brilliant.

Ruth: Yeah, I saw that where they were having... Pairing them up being buddies... That's such a great idea.

Audra: That’s, talk about the beautiful life force energy there, right? The bookends that we used to have in multi-generational homes like yours, Ruth. You know, that used to be the way.

Ruth: As it should be.

Audra: Yes, and so finding other ways to make it the way. Yeah, like your waiting room or like a way of organizing living like that. Justin's aunt actually runs an orphanage in Mexico, and what they do is they pull folks together in family units, so they actually have like... The kids aren’t just all housed in a dormitory together. They pull together these little homes that are multi-generational homes.

Ruth: So great.

Audra: Super cool.

Ruth: You lose out on so much wisdom not doing that.

Justin: So Ruth, before we go, if anyone is in, lives in Southern California and they want to access your practice and your skills, how can they get ahold of you?

Ruth: You can go online and search Open Mind Modalities. Our website is ommacupuncture.com. And you can find all the information of our clinics there.

Justin: Beautiful.

Audra: Two clinics in Orange County.

Ruth: Yes!

Audra: And if you're interested in pediatric healthcare, hospital care where there is acupuncture integrated into the system, take a look at Children's Hospital of Orange County.

Ruth: True.

Justin: Awesome.

Ruth: I miss you both so much!

Audra: We miss you, Ruth.

Justin: The feeling is mutual. Hey, thanks for listening to The Family Thrive podcast. If you like what you heard, please subscribe, tell two friends and head on over to Apple Podcasts, or anywhere you listen to podcasts, and give us a review. We're so grateful you've chosen to join us on this Family Thrive journey.


Justin:
Dr. Ruth McCarty holds a special place in our hearts. Not only is she a highly accomplished traditional Chinese medicine practitioner working within mainstream Western medicine, but she played a huge role in our son's recovery after his initial brain surgery back in 2011, and we found ways to work with her ever since. So we're thrilled to bring you this week's episode.

Ruth: Every day, it's a guarantee, there are going to be challenges and obstructions, but the secret to that is staying in the flow, being connected to spirit service, and when you were giving your life to others, and that's the point of your movement, then it doesn't matter what life throws in your way.

Justin: Ruth McCarty practices Traditional Chinese Medicine, delivering integrative care to residents of Orange County, California, from infancy to adulthood.

Dr. McCarty has spent her career working to integrate these methods into Western medical institutions to maximize the healing and comfort process for patients. This care is continued in her private practice, Open Mind Modalities with locations in Aliso Viejo and Orange, California. Today, she serves as the Clinical Director of Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine program at CHOC, Children's Hospital of Orange County in California.

She founded this program with her husband, neurosurgeon, William Loudon, MD PhD. She also serves as an associate faculty member at the Southern California University of Health Sciences in the College of Eastern Medicine. Dr. McCarty earned her doctorate degree of Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine at Pacific College of Oriental Medicine in San Diego, California, and completed internships at PCOM and at the San Diego Hospice Inpatient Care Center.

She completed fellowships in Pediatrics and Internal Medicine at the Traditional Chinese Medicine University Hospital in the Shandong province of China. Dr. McCarty has participated in medical missions to India, the Dominican Republic, and Kenya. Without further ado, here's our beautiful conversation with the inevitable Dr. Ruth McCarty.

Audra: Tell us what Traditional Chinese Medicine is.

Ruth: TCM, Traditional Chinese Medicine is a very old and eloquent system of medicine that's based on treatment modalities, initiating treatment modalities, that help the body heal itself. To help put harmony and balance into pathologies or illness that the body, the spirit, or the mind, it looks at the body as a whole kind of component to heal itself, and that's done with different treatment modalities like acupuncture, acupressure, massage, herbal medicine, cupping, Tui Na, moxibustion—those are all healing modalities that we offer in our clinic setting and in the hospital.

But one of the beautiful things about Chinese medicine, from the culture that it comes from, is that so many of these healing modalities, which are considered almost exotic in our culture, are part of the family tools at home to keep healthy. So herbs are used in cooking in China and in Asia. Therapeutic herbs that have healing properties are used in everyday cooking. Acupressure and moxibustion are therapies that are taught within family generations that are used at home to keep you healthy so you don't get sick, or even if you do get sick.

These are taught by your mother by your grandmother to keep you in a state of health. So that's, so where they’re considered they can be considered exotic in our culture, in one of the goals of the last 20 some years that I've been doing is to bring these into the home as part of the family toolbox for therapeutic care and prevention to keep our families healthy.

Audra: That's amazing. Most people don't think about when they think about, let's say acupuncture, because I don't think we, like most people who are not receiving care in this way, don't necessarily think of Traditional Chinese Medicine as a whole, but let's say acupressure is preventative, a lot of people think, think of these modalities is, “Hey, once you're injured, hurt or ill, I'm gonna go in and try this form of care,” but I think it is really powerful to think of the entire cultural-based lifestyle, it's really a lifestyle medicine in many ways, that to keep one healthy it that sounds like a balance to me. Not just focusing on sickness.

Ruth: Right, and that's been, I think one of the hardest things to impart or teach or even sell to my patient base is that you can use this medicine to stay healthy. Once people are integrated into care and they have been healed, then they understand it, but upfront to tell my patients, you do this so you don't end up sick, you do this to stay healthy, and that's really been an education process in my career too, because we're just not taught that in our culture.

Justin: No, I still am surprised for myself how I'll slip back into, I'll miss a couple days of meditation or some emotional processing practices and I'll start feeling kind of out of sorts again. It's like, “Oh yeah, this is like every other thing,” like eating healthy and working out, and that these are things that we have to do as a regular part of our lives, and we're not taught this when we're young.

Ruth: Agreed. And I think the word ‘practice’ is a really powerful word when you're thinking about self-care, it doesn't, the things that we practice to develop our self-care regime. I'm a meditator, I do yoga, but you need to put those healing modalities into that practice.

It's a really powerful word” ‘practice,’ and where people, and I'm afraid in our culture, it's all kind of a solution. What's the solution to this problem? And it's just they think of it as a one-time thing or a thing to get rid of that disharmony that you're feeling. But it needs to be a practice. It needs to be part of your life consistently.

Justin: Yeah, Ruth, can I just share this new theory that I have about Western culture, or at least the culture that I live in. Most of what we are sold and the regular things we do are avoidance stuff. It's like stuff to avoid dealing with emotional pain, with psychological issues, with... So whether it's scrolling our social media feed or anything else, it's all avoidance, it's all distraction. So these other practices are asking us to actively engage into...

Ruth: And when we do practice what happens? We become present, those are keywords, we become present in our practice where you're right, social media is the worst, and I’m as guilty as anybody. Although I have to say since we have a new president and a new administration, that my anxiety level and my news scrolling and my media scrolling has probably been cut by 92%.

Justin: Oh my gosh.

Ruth: Cuz I wake up in the morning and I'm like, “Oh, functioning adult.”

Justin: So I still kind of habitually listen to the news in the morning every day, and today I turned it on and the first thing they said is the president dut da du du da and I could feel my heart rate go up like, “Oh god, the president... What is he doing now?” I was like, “Oh wait, no, we have a different president now.”

Ruth: It’s so true.

Audra: So, Ruth can you tell us about the concept of, and you can correct me if I'm wrong, qi or chi, and you spoke of harmony and disharmony. I'd love to know more about this facet of Traditional Chinese Medicine.

Ruth: So qi is a word that is used in Chinese medicine. There are many, many different kinds of qi, and that is mostly referring to the different functions that energy have in our universe, in our body, but kind of as a base, qi is a natural life force within you, but it is also the life force in our world, in our universe, in our communities and our families, of how we relate to each other, of how our functions of our body relate to each other.

And when this qi is moving smoothly and freely and working the way it's supposed to, then we are in a state of harmony and things work. Like we all know when we've had a day and we've stayed in the flow. Like, what does that mean? Right, we've stayed in the flow where these connections and these relationships of this energy in our own body of how we relate to our family, of how we relate to our co-workers, of how we relate to nature around us is flowing freely. And that's when we have harmony.

One of the descriptions I use with kids and trying to talk about qi and how the free flow of qi means health and when it's not flowing freely is like, how do you feel when you're in the car with your mom and you're in a traffic jam on I-5, and you have to get somewhere and you can't get somewhere and you've gotta go to practice? Or you have to go to school? Or you're trying and you get, start getting caught and you start getting frustrated, and then everyone's voices raise and that's where qi is stuck. It's really easy to explain to kids what that feels like, and to adults.

Audra: They get it.

Ruth: Right. Yeah, yeah. So it's staying... Harmony is staying in that flow.

Audra: Yeah, yeah, that's what I wonder to have kids are more in touch with... “Yes, I'm in flow. No, I'm not,” because I feel like being with kids, they express it so beautifully.

Ruth: They have no filters.

Audra: Right, right.

Ruth: There's none of these filters and these protective shields that we all put up as adults or that avoidance thing. They're just kind of right in the, they're good at staying in the flow.

Audra: Right, right in it. So how does that affect your practice and because you work a lot with kids, you have a very unique practice from what I've learned about Traditional Chinese Medicine and the modalities you use, because you see adults and kids, you see a very large amount of folks with complex cases, complex diseases, and you work inpatient at Children's Hospital of Orange County as well.

You straddle the Eastern and Western, if you will, because you know a ton about the Western modalities, you're very, very well-versed in, in Western medicine, and I think it's one reason why your patients trust you so much because they know that you know what they're talking about in their treatment plans at the hospital, but you also are a doctor of Chinese medicine, and so there is that translational work that you do.

So I'm really interested in what it's like to treat kids and how they can speak to that flow or those blockages and represent that.

Ruth: So, I think the first thing I'm going to address in that eloquent description of my practice, which I thank you, is that you cannot treat a child without treating the parents, you just can’t.

Justin: We know that first hand.

Ruth: You can't. You have to address those family relationships, because what does a child look to the parent or the caregiver for? They look to them for everything. So to try to just change a disharmony, whether it's physical or emotional or spiritual, you have to address the connection between the parent and the child. And that's something that I think is not unique in Chinese medicine, that is part of the Chinese medicine approach to harmony. But I think that's unique within our practice, how it's implemented.

Audra: Yes.

Ruth: Even in the hospital. I may not be able to do acupuncture in the hospital, but we can do other things, or even being attentive and listening and present for parents has a huge therapeutic effect.

Audra: Huge.

Ruth: Huge.

Audra: Huge, yup.

Ruth: I think that's probably one of the most important things we do in our clinic, in our practice, is that we treat the family as a whole, which you guys know.

Audra: Well, absolutely, and it’s groundbreaking, Ruth, this gets into how we met, and so I really wanna go into that story a little bit and just put a pin in something before I do. I hope that we live to see a day where when a child is admitted to the hospital, or like our son, Max was directly to the ICU, that the entire family is put into care, take our insurance cards. All of us. Sign us all up. You know what I mean? Why does it have to be segmented? I asked for an aspirin that first night, I had the worst headache I've ever had, and they said, “Sorry, Mom, we can't do anything for you.”

Ruth: And it would be, I agree.

Audra: So we have to take your approach and the values behind this Traditional Chinese Medicine approach of treating the whole family to our greater healthcare system would be amazing. And this is what we saw beginning to be realized in our Ohana Project.

And so MaxLove Project had this wonderful, wonderful research study that we initiated with you, with Open Mind Modalities with Children's Hospital of Orange County, focused on a family-based approach to integrative health that included acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine. And the reason why we did this is because we learned first-hand ourselves and with countless other families, the value of what you provide.

And so we met, oh Ruth, it was nine-and-a-half years ago now. We met in the hospital. Our neurosurgeon is also your partner, your life partner, your husband. And he softly suggested that we see, he asked if we're interested in Traditional Chinese Medicine because you, his wife, practices in the hospital, and it was offered, and I think I remember being in such shock. I had no idea what the hell was going on, I knew we were open to it, but I didn't know what we could handle.

And so you just, I think gently came back and before we knew it, we were getting, going in and getting acupuncture with you before Max’s chemotherapy, after his chemotherapy every week, we were,  every time he was in the hospital you were there, and you’ve been his healer, one of his healers, I know that he has had a few, including your husband.

But you've been that presence for us and so many others, and one of the most beautiful things that came out of our time with you is not only an appreciation for the power of Traditional Chinese Medicine, personally. Like Max wouldn't know how to describe it, but he would just, I knew because he wanted to go. He's also an Aquarius, also a man of few words, but he always feels better.

Right, so one of the most magical things that happened is you have something that you offer that many, I don't know that there's another practice like it, where you offer a group treatment. And so we would be in the waiting room with all of these families who wanted to be treated together and we, the community that we built together, and now that you describe qi, that's what's flowing between all of us, right? That’s a power there.

Ruth: That's the perfect example of it.

Audra: This is how our work together was born. The MaxLove Project was born first as a service project, a way to give back and to build community, and seeing the power of what you are doing and combining that with our other BE SUPER action points that we developed, especially our work on nutrition. We just knew that we had to work together. The Ohana Project was born, we opened an office together in Orange, California, and the work continues. I know we have some really big dreams together too, but this is how... This is how we met, and I do believe that we're connected at such a deep level, and we're so grateful for you, Ruth.

Ruth: It’s likewise. I think one of the greatest losses of this pandemic with COVID is... Well, besides all the lives and the trauma, but I can't do community acupuncture in my waiting room because it's not safe. And I see the loss of that flow between the families, it's heartbreaking, it's heartbreaking. And I just pray and can't wait for the day that we can do that again.

Audra: So deeply therapeutic, empowering, powerful. I hear from all of the families is just, it's a huge hole in all of our lives. I think you're right, this is like a big part of the fallout from COVID, and as we come back into it, I know that it's a thing that we won't be taking for granted, for sure.

Ruth: That, that's my favorite part of my practice is how busy and beautiful my waiting room gets and the interaction between the kids and the parents, and the parents with other kids and... Oh my gosh. And the grandparents... And it's a beautiful, beautiful thing.

Audra: What you've created is a space for healing, and so as you're like physically and energetically working on that flow and really helping the flow of qi, I think, can’t this sort of thing happen everywhere, anywhere?

Ruth: Of course it can.

Audra: Every hospital...

Ruth: Of course it can.

Audra: …waiting room? We just don't think like that. So it's one thing that I love about what you do and the effect that you have, bringing your work into the hospital, is that it starts to seep in maybe more slowly than you and I would want... You've been doing this for a really long time. But what are some of the effects of your practice that you've seen change maybe some of the little things in the hospital, even interactions or things with associates and clinicians?

Ruth: I think to begin with, I started out one patient at a time. I told this story, I think I told this story to a parent yesterday, which I tell the story a lot because I'm asked, how did this start? Right. How did this start? And it started, I was treating a neurofibromatosis type II, which is benign tumors in your central nervous system or brain and spine.

And this young man, I think he was 12 when he started, Bill... Dr. Loudon did probably over 50 surgeries on his brain and spine, right. And he would have a pretty good quality of life after, but he would have intractable nausea and vomiting after surgery, not one cocktail, many, many drugs would touch it. Horrible. It would be horrible.

He was just constantly on IV fluids, it was so painful to watch, and I had been treating him out-patient, did not have in-patient privileges yet, and I went to round with Dr. Loudon on a Saturday afternoon, just to round in the hospital too, 'cause I knew he was in the hospital, he was a very beloved San Clemente hometown, local boy. And God bless Dr. Gary Goodman, who was the intensivist on that day. His kids, knew Taylor, it was just a very energetically connected group.
And Dr. Loudon looked at Dr. Goodman and said, “Give her temporary privileges,” as poor Taylor is just puking his brains out bedside and his parents feel so helpless to help him.

And Dr. Goodman said, “Okay.” And had him within hours, and that's how it started, and of course within 15 minutes of getting acupuncture, his nausea and vomiting stopped. That’s one of the truly miraculous effects of treatment, and it's so beautiful. And after I had temporary privileges, they started feeding me, “Can you help this, can you help that?” It was like I wasn't getting paid, but I was getting the opportunity to treat these kids in the hospital, and that started the path on getting permanent privileges, which was over a year process of going to medical executive committees.

And the first question they asked me, I'm like, I'm so nervous and I’ve prepared. And the first question they asked me is “Do you use sterile needles?” and I just like...

Audra: No, I use dirty ones. I just have one needle that I use for everybody.

Ruth: The education process of, we’re certified in clean needle technique and the entry-level degree to practice Chinese medicine at that time was a mass of four-years Masters. And then people go like, they just didn't know, it was ignorance.

Audra: Right.

Ruth: And the process after, through education, oh my gosh, was they were really happy to have me there. They were really happy to be able to offer this to patients.

Audra: And how many years has it been now?

Ruth: That was in 2002—well, it was 2001, and it took a year to get permanent privileges in 2002.

Audra: It's incredible. And how many folks do you have practicing with you at the hospital now?

Ruth: We now have... There's three credential practitioners. I'm having two more credentialed as we speak, they're in the process of getting their privileges. And then we have the internship program with Southern California Health Science Universities where I have doctoral students come in and intern with me and round and treat patients. That program is really great because practitioners are getting the opportunity to treat critical care, to treat NICU, to treat these types of patients you'd never see outpatient.

Audra: Right, right. And so it's from the NICU to the PICU, really? All the way through.

Ruth: All the way through.

Audra: It's incredible, and then you have the clinics where you can, where you can see these patients when they're home.

Ruth: Right. Continuity of care.

Audra: Oh it's beautiful. Beautiful, Ruth. That makes me think, we've talked about this incredible journey you've had.

Ruth: But let me go back to that last point. The point was, it was one patient at a time, that's how it's started, right? And that's how anything that lasts or anything of significance, it's just that one step that leads to the next step, and we have, all three of us, right? We have these giant aspirations, but we're gonna do it one step at a time.

Justin: So Ruth, now I wanna go back to the first step for you. How did this all begin where you knew you wanted to become a healer, and then acupuncture was gonna be your modality?

Ruth: So I've had some, still have, amazing mentors in my life of women healers. I think the most prominent being my mom, who was a nurse and a healer. And I was thinking about this, my great-grandmother was a sound healer.

Audra: Oh, really?

Ruth: And she was an herbalist and…

Justin: Wow.

Ruth: When my great-grandma was, when she came to live with us, I grew up in a multi-generational family, both my great-grandmas lived with us at one point, my grandma lived with us at one point, which I think we miss a lot in our culture from not having multi-generational families, because I got to see and benefit from their wisdom.

But my great-grandmother was, she lived such a sparse life, she was so ahead of her time, she recycled everything, she had her Bible, her little, she would make little vials of healing tinctures and then she would do this really beautiful sound healing, which I'm so sorry she did not give to me, but she kinda had dementia by the time she came to live with us. And she would just walk around and over you, she'd made these little “hrrrr, hrrr…”

My mom said when she was young, she would take my mom out into the country, they lived like rural country, she would take my mom when she was a child out into the country and go to these farms where there were no doctors, and with her little tinctures and do sound healing over them. Fascinating.

Justin: Wow, so this is like indigenous European, ancient European, folk healing.

Ruth: Folk healing at its finest. And then my mom took a more traditional route, and she was a nurse. She did a lot of home health care off the clock, she worked in a hospital. My mom was a very accomplished nurse, ran a hospital, worked in all kinds of units, but she was always doing, well, you have to go back to the basis like, I am a child of God in service, right. And that's how my mom raised me. We live our life in service to our creator, and we do it through helping others in healing.

So she was constantly taking me out into the... I never knew where we were going when I was a kid. She took me to Long View Asylum on the weekends. This is like a mental... It's a mental hospital. It's an asylum. It was the scariest place. And I was young enough for... I don't even know what we did there, but she would carry me in, so I was young enough to be carried.

And it was a scary place. She had to go through opening the locked gates, and I remember the attendants, they would cut cigarettes up into little pieces and they'd be allowed to smoke a cigarette like that big. And they were constantly wanting to touch me 'cause I was like, this child, right, and this was such a dark, scary place, but I don't even know what my mom did there. She did some kind of healing, nursing, something there.

Justin: Okay, I just have to ask about this story, Ruth. Can you remember how you felt?

Ruth: I was terrified. But my mom constantly, that was part of our, my training as to be in service, because you're in service to all mankind.

Audra: Right, right.

Ruth: That was my mom would... What I do remember, my mom would go in and the most wretched humans in this place... And they were wretched. Oh my god, mental, state mental hospitals back then, they probably... I don't even know if we have them anymore, so wretched, she would wash feet. She would go in and wash feet of the most wretched of wretched, poor people, completely out of their minds, and administer love and care to them. That's my earliest like memories.

Audra: And you're right. She did give that to you, right? And it's not just showing you all the beautiful things, it's inviting you into all of it.

Ruth: I can, from doing stuff like that, I can walk... I am confident to walk into this precarious situations.

Justin: Right, that's what I was thinking, that here you have this, this spiritual act of grace at the same time you're experiencing terror. And to like, to hold these two things together is amazing.

Ruth: I had this blonde like crazy hair when I was little, and I just remember them, the patients and their fingernails were so dirty and they weren’t... It was a scary place, but they all wanted to touch my hair, touch me…

Justin: Oh my gosh.

Audra: I can just imagine the light you brought in there.

Ruth: It was a great, that was the beginning, I was probably three or four years old then. It was great training.

And then when I was in elementary school, my mom, this is where I got my real start, my mom was the Director of Nursing at the Beachwood Home of the Incurable and Beachwood Home, it was like a nursing home. But in the turn of the century, if your child was born with developmental delays or cerebral palsy, or if your child contracted polio, you were institutionalized. You didn't get to bring your kid home, that was like, in our culture, it’s crazy, right? In other cultures, they don't do that, your child was put in an institution.

So this wealthy Procter and Gamble in Cincinnati, Procter and Gamble family, had a daughter with CP, with cerebral palsy, and they built the Beachwood Home for the Incurable. It was a beautiful, old type, marble floored mansion that they built this place to give their child a home.

So they started this home for these kids, as these kids grew up, it turned into a nursing home for geriatrics, and by the time my mom was the director of this place, it was all geriatric patients, but some of them had lived there since they were little kids. And I would go there every day after school, that's where I hung out, and all of these patients were my friends, like I would go and sit, the stories were fascinating, amazing stories that, um.

One of my best friends was Charlotte, who, she was in her 60s or 70s, no, she was older than that. Her 80s at the time, but she had contracted polio as a child, and her legs did not grow, she had... She was like a little doll, and she was in this big wheel chair, but she was an adult, and when she was, I think 19... This was way back in the early 1900s—when she was 19, he fell in love with an orderly, and if you were handicapped, you could not get married...You cannot get married. You could not have children. You were institutionalized.

So, she told me the story so many times, so this orderly, got a basket and rigged a rope, and he was going to lower her from the second story of the Beachwood Home for the Incurable and they were gonna run away together. And they got caught.

Audra: Oh my god.

Ruth: And he was fired and she never saw him again. And she had a picture of him by her bed.

Audra: Oh, heartbreaking.

Ruth: Oh my god, it was... I heard so many stories like that, they're truly beautiful. Oh gosh. So they grew up institutionalized, these kids, and I have found that I think I treat a lot of special needs kids in my practice, and I'm sure that's where I got my start. I love treating special needs kids, they're just such beautiful, light, joyous souls.

But another thing that happened to me there, because it was a nursing home, a geriatric, is that's where I got my start in end of-life care. And I would know who was on their way out and I would... I just knew, and I would sit, sometimes I'd sit... They had these really high beds, I think, 'cause it made it easier for the staff, but when I was little, I could sit under their beds. So when patients were dying, oftentimes either it was to stay out of the way, I don't know why, but I'd sit under their beds with them, or I'd sit with them until they left.

And it was, the one thing I want to tell, there are so many things to talk about end-of-life care, but the one thing I want your listeners to know is that adults and children from doing end-of-life care at CHOC and in my practice, they do not leave unprepared. They do not leave unprepared, they are visited and prepared, and it can be so difficult and heartbreaking, but where, you don't leave alone and you don't leave unprepared.

Justin: Ruth, I’m having a realization that we need to schedule another interview just to talk about end-of-life care.

Ruth: There’s a lot to talk about.

Justin: This is such a great topic. It might strike listeners to The Family Thrive like, “Hey, this is a little dark,” but every family is dealing with end-of-life care.

Ruth: We’re all gonna die.

Justin: …It's gonna touch everybody. And so this podcast is not just about the happy, great parts of family life, which of course it is, but it's also gonna be about these painful parts of the journey that people like you know a lot about. And we would really love to really open up and have a lot of time with this.

Audra: Yeah, I'm really interested just for a moment, as we keep continuing in your journey, learning about your journey, Ruth, to know as... So as a child and a young person, you are... It sounds like you were just attuned to the transition. And you just... You just knew.

Ruth: It wasn't something I learned, definitely. It was just something that I was aware of from my earliest, earliest, earliest memories.

Audra: And you were not scared. You wanted to be with people.

Ruth: No, I was never scared. I don't know, maybe my mom carried me into the mental asylum...

Audra: It's so powerful, Ruth, and we need more of you and your voice and your perspective to help us have these conversations and normalize what is the most normal aspect of humanity that we haven't normalized, you know.

Ruth: And we've so avoided it in our culture. It's horrible how we've avoided it. It's horrible. We all suffer because of it.

Audra: So much. So much, and then we avoid that suffering.

Ruth: And then we get sick.

Audra: But it's beautiful. So you transition with people, you chose to be there with people as they’re transitioning, and you've done that ever since.

Ruth: Ever since. My whole life. Yes, and I think the path that I've been following with my practice and in the hospital has allowed me to do more of that, and I'm so grateful. I'm so grateful. It's some of the most beautiful, amazing. It's the point of your whole life are those moments when you make that transition. Truly, truly.

Audra: So you grew up in this, imagine this, maternal line of matriarch healers.

Ruth: True.

Audra: And I could see them almost as you're describing this journey, and you end up in San Diego, California as an art major.

Ruth: Yes. So, I have to be honest about this. I grew up in Ohio. I really did not enjoy the Midwest because I like to be outside all the time. I found great joy and comfort in nature, and it's hard to do that when it's either too hot and humid to be outside or too cold to be outside.

Audra: Right, right.

Ruth: So I, from a really early age, my mom told me before I was five, I started telling her I'm moving to California. And she was like, “What? Yeah, whatever. ” I had never been here, I had never been here before I moved here.

Audra: You just knew.

Ruth: So I moved to California, and when I got here, I was like, “Are you kidding me? People have lived like this the whole time and I didn't know.” I picked my college, I went to UCSD, University of California, San Diego, but I picked my college solely on its location.

Audra: And art.

Justin: And the ocean and you’ve never left.

Ruth: I was pursuing art. And it had a great art program, but it was mostly because of where it was located.

Audra: You know what, one thing that was really interesting that we had a podcast with earlier, our wonderful friend and contributor to The Family Thrive, Jenny Walters, and she is also a healer. She's a therapist, psychologist who was a fine art photographer, and she described, Justin, do you remember how she said that she described how therapy and doing art made her feel the same way because it was in touch with the same thing. It was in touch with the same healing, it was in touch with, there's some sort of…

Justin: Some energetic flow.

Audra: It was energetic. She was like, once I got that, I saw... So was there a relationship for you between that art creative, artistic process for you?

Ruth: Absolutely. I mean, art is an expression of your soul. And your soul is every aspect, your mental, spiritual, physical... Every aspect. In the art I did, I did collective pieces and sculpture, I was a dumpster diver in college. I was like... I think it goes back to my great-grandmother, the recycler way before her time, found a use for every single thing, but I was constantly rescuing things and trying to make something beautiful out of it, and it does... It touches your soul. That's why art... And Chinese medicine is an art. So many Chinese medicine practitioners have previous art histories.

Justin: Well, that makes sense. Yeah.

Audra: Yeah, it's really cool. So, then you became an acupuncturist. You found your way.

Ruth: My path, it's so long and varied. I moved to California, went to UCSD, and while I was in college, I became a first responder and beach lifeguard. Which was another way to be able to sit outside and such a gift to watch the sun traverse the sky and all the things that happened in nature, and it was part of my service, I was serving people, keeping people safe. The first responder aspect, I was really interested in healthcare. It served that need.

Because it was kind of a seasonal job, that meant that I had months when it wasn't the season to travel and surf. So I was living the endless summer traveling all over the world, surfing, immersing myself in different cultures, learning about their art and their healing practices. It was... And honestly, I would have done it forever.

Audra: What changed?

Ruth: I had... Well, I think God was giving me little nudges saying, you can't do the endless summer thing forever, and I didn't listen. So I went from being a very fit, high trained person using my physical abilities to perform my job, to breaking my neck and laying in bed for, in chronic pain for months, a year.

Audra: Did you break your neck surfing?

Ruth: No, it was an accident. But having my whole... So much of my identity was wrapped up in my physical abilities, and all of a sudden I had none. So I had to do a lot of soul searching, dealing with heavy, heavy... It's hard. Depression, when you can't... Chronic pain is horrible. But that experience, when a person walks into my clinic or I am consulted on a person in terrible pain or chronic pain, I know that look in their eye.

Justin: You know.

Ruth: I have great empathy for that. So I sought out alternative medicine because Western medicine had nothing to offer me once my structural, my bones were healed, I had terrible soft tissue injury. And that just wasn't healing. And Western medicine doesn't have a lot to offer for that chronic condition. Ao I sought out acupuncture, I sought out Chinese medicine, helped me so much within three months of getting my first treatment, I was enrolling in graduate school to become a Chinese medicine practitioner.

Justin: Wow. Wow. Oh, what I'm hearing here is a connection to something that we've talked about earlier, not on this podcast, but in the past, your definition for thriving, you told me was moving through life without obstruction. And so this point in your life, you broke your neck, total chronic pain, feels like a huge obstruction. What's striking me right now is that that obstruction led to something really beautiful.

Ruth: I think I'm hard-headed, I don't know.

Justin: Well, can you talk more about your definition of thriving?

Ruth: Yeah, thriving when I... And that's gonna go back to staying in the flow. When I said moving through life without obstruction, that doesn't mean life without challenges, because that's a guarantee. Every day it’s a guarantee, there are going to be challenges and obstructions that the secret to that is staying in the flow, and for me, it's staying connected to spirit and service. And when you are giving your life to others, and that's the point of your movement then it doesn't matter what life throws in your way.

'Cause, this is for me, if I stay on the path of service and I stay giving my life to God, then I know it doesn't, I know I'm on the right path, no matter what gets thrown my way. That's kind of the deeper meaning of that for me, yeah.

Audra: So Ruth, you spent time in China after graduate school?

Ruth: I did. Yes.

Audra: And can you tell us some of these experiences when it comes to flow, when it comes to that definition of thriving. Did you have any experience with some of these ways of looking at life and existence in Chinese culture in a different way than presents here?

Ruth: So China, my experience in China was one of great contradiction. I thought I was so excited to go and the medicine was beautiful, wonderful. It was a great experience as far as the medicine. Living in a very communist country where people are constantly in fear of the government, constant, it’s not like it is now. So that part was... It was hard for me. Quality of life for people in China when I was there was really difficult. It was so difficult. There was the... A culture that is so old, you’d think that they would have waste management down. But they don’t.

Audra: No.

Ruth: Oh, it's horrible. I just couldn't believe that. How you guys understand Chinese medicine, the flow and obstruction, and so I just... They didn't put a lot of value on people, which was hard for me. People treating each other like family units, I never saw an elderly person come to a doctor's appointment by themselves.

Elderly were revered there, even if there were no elevators in the Chinese medicine hospital, so you had to take the stairs. And if an elderly person came, I saw elderly people come in wheelbarrows wrapped in beautifully homemade silk quilts and then the family members would carry the wheelbarrow up the stairs. It was just like so many contradictions in China.

But one of the most beautiful things I saw was how Chinese medicine was used in the family unit with cooking of these medicinal herbs and practices like moxibustion and Tui Na, and gua sha was used at home preventatively, that was a really beautiful thing. But man, it was hard watching how little value was put on life there from the government’s standpoint.

Audra: So dynamic, and it sounds like such a deep resistance in the communist regime to the culture.

Ruth: Yes.

Audra: And to the history of China, it was like...

Ruth: It was shocking to me. I came home so thankful for public restrooms and plumbing, and I've been all over the world. I'm not like a faint of heart traveler, but I think the massive humanity there also was shocking to me, just how many people... And I rode my bike, I got a bike and would ride to the hospital every day. I was the only person wearing a bike helmet, nobody wears a, millions of bikers. There are so many head injuries in China. I would go the same... Right, the same route to the hospital every day and people would point out at me and go “Big head, big head!”

Justin: So Ruth, I wanna shift gears real quick, so you've said in the past that if you have one self-care piece of advice for parents that it would be “Breathe.” And I know you’ve... I think you've told us this in the past too, I think I actually remember you telling me this in 2011 when I brought Max in for the first time, like “Dad, breathe.” So can you tell more about, is it a special type of breathing... What... Can you talk more about this piece of advice?

Ruth: So we're gonna get back to that word of practice again, and self-care. Part of my daily practice is Kriya yoga, which is a breath technique, to develop a closer relationship with God. That's the basis of it.

Now, what goes along with doing breathing techniques, there are many types of breathing techniques, Kriya is just the one that I practice. But it brings you, besides all the physiological benefits that happens to your body, it brings you into the present to breathe, right?

And if you are being present and not stressing out about what could be or what has been and staying present, that's what I think what breathing really does, is that your anxiety level would go down and you will put yourself back into that flow with spirit. So my practice, I have a pretty... And what you were talking about the beginning, Justin, when if I fall out of my practice, man, I know I'm gonna pay. It's not like, it's not like I have to do this, it's like, if I don't do this, what will happen?

So my practice involves, I do a good hour of meditation every morning and breathing techniques, and that includes just being quiet and sitting with God, and then I do a lot of dialogue with God.

Justin: Is there any special or is there any quick breathing practice that you can give parents? Like if things are really intense, is there just a quick method?

Ruth: Yes, if you count your breaths in. If you just do, count the time of taking a breath in for five seconds, hold it for five seconds and exhale it for five seconds. If you do that 10 times, your whole physiological make-up will be different, your mind... It will be so different just doing that.

Audra: Ruth, I love that. I think it's a really beautiful, tangible first step, baby step, but also just a daily thing to incorporate in one's life. Right, that's something that you can take a second to do. You can set your watch, you can set up some reminders to do something like that throughout the day. I wanted to ask you, this isn't just advice you give, you give parents through your practice and that you practice yourself, but you're also a mom. And we haven't talked about... We haven't talked about that yet.

We absolutely love your beautiful son, Jesse who is now a full grown man. It’s amazing. And of course, you and Dr. Loudon share a family. Do you impart any of this on your kids, is this something that these practices... Do you share these practices with them?

Ruth: Yes, actually, I just want us, being a mom, best thing ever, best, best, best, best thing I've ever done. Heather, you know Heather, one of our practitioners, just had a baby.

Audra: Oh Heather had her baby, congrats!

Ruth: She had a boy, so beautiful, and it's just the best thing you can do, just... Gosh. It's the best gift from God ever. Children, but all of our kids, we have four kids between us, all of our kids always wanted Chinese medicine but nobody went that path, so I'm hoping, I became a grandma this year, this past year for the second generation. But yeah, they all... Jesse's a meditator, he’s really about good food and healthy lifestyle, and Elliot, the oldest son is a firefighter, Emily's a nurse, his wife, we've... I think we've imparted the idea of service onto our kids.

Audra: Absolutely.

Ruth: I think I had more influence on Jesse that Jesse's really taken the ‘be still’ concept and run with it, and he has a practice. Definitely.

Audra: How is that... Is that for you with... I can imagine a parent listening to this thinking, “Okay, how do I get started?” Was it... Is it modeling the way... Did you have open conversations? Did you do it together? How did this start for Jesse?

Ruth: From day one, of course. I asked, it was funny, I asked Bill and Jesse, your last questions that you put your MaxLove questions, about your quotes. And Jesse was... I raised Jesse, as my mom raised me, with a lot of Ralph Waldo Emerson. And Jesse's quote was a Ralph Waldo Emerson quote  that I wrote above his bed. I think when he was in, when school was getting kinda hard, maybe like sixth, seventh, eighth grade I wrote... “Discontent is the want of self-reliance” above his bed on the wall, and that was the quote he gave me. “Like of course Mom, that one.

Audra: Of course. That's awesome.

Justin: It starts early.

Ruth: Well, you have to start it early, 'cause those practices, man, it takes a long time to... I tried to get him to start breathing and meditating way earlier than he really embraced it. It takes a long time to find your way, but I just wanted him to be aware it was there.

Justin: Yeah, and just patience.

Ruth: Yeah you have to take those steps and figure it out, that's part of the life. But as an adult, you wanna tell your kids, but you can bypass so much angst.

Justin: Well the research, the research shows that parents, when parents eat healthier, their kids are more... Or when parents eat whole foods, their kids are more likely to eat whole foods later in life, and same with exercising. So I imagine there's gotta be something with meditation and breathing and these practices as well, that you don't need to force it on them, but if they see that it's a regular part of your life, that it will eventually start to weave itself into their life.

Ruth: And that has panned out. He's a daily meditator. And he says the same thing, “Oh, man life gets too hard if I don't do it.”

Audra: That's really powerful, Ruth. It makes me think that for parents who are looking to find that first place to start, that the breathing technique that you talked about, the five seconds or the box breathing technique is a great place to start and when potentially when something blows up with your child, like let's say you're in a moment, everyone's having a moment, the big feelings are coming out. One of the things that we can do is, “Hey, let's just breathe together for a minute. Can we do that?”

Ruth: So powerful, so powerful. And there are so many apps and ways now that it's so accessible to everybody.

Justin: Yeah, and like... Well, so the consensus recommendation on exercise amongst researchers and physicians who are into this is that just find the exercise type that you like, just find what you like and do that. And I think because we have, now have so many different meditation apps and approaches, I think the same thing could be said for that. Find the one that you like. Find the way that it works for you.

Ruth: Absolutely, there's not just one way to do anything. Oh my gosh. We're also different as human beings, you know?

Audra: Yeah, Ruth, how did you connect with... Okay, so you told us that your most important self-care practice is meditation, we talked about breathing, we talked about your breathing practice and a bit about your meditation practice… Can you tell us how you connected with your meditation practice and what does it look like for you? How did you learn it?

Ruth: I do Kriya yoga, that's part of the Self-Realization Fellowship, and I think living in... I lived in Encinitas and Del Mar, where they have a center there that they teach it. So it was local, and it just called to me. I was just very, very comfortable there. It's not a religion. It is, they teach a practice to develop your own relationship with God and that just... That spoke to me.

Audra: Yeah, in your family. Do you find that, that... I know your husband meditates as well. We know…

Ruth: He does.

Audra: Dr. Loudon, very well. He's very dear to us also, and he's very open about his meditation practice, does he... Does he follow a similar practice or do something else call to him?

Ruth: He started doing TM when he was younger, and then last year, he started in doing the Kriya techniques. So we do Kriya together, it's a really nice way, we try to end the day. This year, I have time to do it sometimes, like my main practice is in the morning, first thing when I get up, and then we do... Not always at the end of the day.

But what I've been doing with Dr. Loudon now, I think his schedule has changed a little bit so I can throw this in. So at the end of the day, we're doing down dog, so we're doing more yoga, physical yoga, and then that always... I found if I can get him to do that. So I do my... I do an hour of that when I get home from work every day, and he always gets home later than me. So then I tack on to 20 minutes for him and help him, and then we're in a much better position to sit down and meditate.

Audra: That is awesome, that resonates with me as a physicality kind of first like I have found that doing stretching, you call it yoga or stretching, and then breathing, and then in terms of a practice for me has been really helpful.

Ruth: It's really hard after a day of work to just come and sit down and be quiet, you have to do something to let go of all that stuff. And stretching has been really positive for both of us like that.

Justin: So Ruth, you alluded to these final questions that we have, and so these are three questions that we ask every podcast guest, and I love the fact that you ask these to Bill and Jesse as well. So if you wanna share their answers, we would...we'd love to hear it, but let's start... Let's start with the first one. So, Ruth, if you could put a big post-it note on every parent's fridge tomorrow morning, what would it say?

Ruth: So mine, it would say “Love God.” That would be mine. I asked my husband this morning as he was leaving, and he said, “Hug your kids.”

Justin: Oh my gosh. Coming from him, he knows what's behind that too. Yeah, there's a lot of depth there.

Ruth: And the one from Jesse, I felt like, oh, I succeeded in some way, Jesse was “Pack your kids a healthy lunch.”

Justin: Right on the fridge. Perfect.

Ruth: I thought it was funny.

Audra: Oh, that's awesome. So we talked about the quote a little bit, we talked about Jesse's quote, what is the last quote that changed the way you think or feel?

Ruth: Oh, it was so powerful, and I'm going to use the sweet dear Amanda Gorman. Oh my gosh.

Audra: Isn’t she so powerful. Isn’t she?

Ruth: Yeah, so powerful. “For it’s our grief that gives us our gratitude, shows us how to find hope if we ever lose it, to ensure that this ache wasn't endured in vain, do not ignore the pain, give it purpose. Use it.”

Audra: Yes, yes, yes.

Justin: Love that.

Ruth: She is so young. Gosh, all the beautiful stuff that we'll get from her.

Audra: Everything. I'm voting for her. I’m on the campaign team.

Justin: She's not running. But you're voting.

Audra: She said she will.

Justin: Oh, cool. Me too. So our final question is really just the context of it, is that when you're in the thick of parenting and it's just the daily grind and everything's going on, it's so easy just to sit back and be like, “Oh my god, kids, they're driving me crazy.” But we want to just end this by celebrating kids because kids are amazing, and so what is your favorite thing about kids?

Ruth: Their joy. Kids are so joyful, even in the worst of the worst. They will find some little thing to be joy about. It’s just so, so connected, they're still so connected to the source… I think we forget it as adults.

Justin: I love that. So all of the things that we do to protect ourselves from pain: all the avoidance and the distractions are also keeping us from the joy, and that’s what the kids don't have as all those avoidant coping walls built up yet.

Ruth: They'll be so honest about how terrible something can be, and then in the next second, be so joyous about how something can be.

Justin: Oh, there's wisdom there right? It's like, you gotta take the pain and the joy, the grief and the love. It's all there together.

Ruth: Exactly.

Audra: You know what Ruth? It really strikes me. I've learned so much about this in the childhood cancer journey with Max and with all of the other families we've walked with, and along the same lines always inspires me how the kids keep us going, 'cause all they want to do is just to do them.

Ruth: That’s true. I wanna share this.

Audra: Yes, yes.

Ruth: Because when we were talking about not having my waiting room going, right. I have a busy clinic. I have five or six treatment rooms and my waiting room going at the same time. And once we went into COVID and opened back up, and I didn't have a waiting room, in the middle of my day I was like, “Why am I so tired? Like do I have something wrong with me?” And I realized I wasn't like that qi that I get from an over packed waiting room wasn't there. It was a big adjustment for me.

Audra: The waiting room qi. Now, it's a beautiful, beautiful thing to point out, and in the family unit, we talk a lot about how we need to care for the whole family, and I think parents being aware of qi and kind of their own energetic flow or lack thereof, and how we can be impacting our kids, but also recognizing how our kids are positively and powerfully impacting us with that energy.

Ruth: So true, so true. Oh, gosh I should just see a happy kid. Just see a happy kid and I'm like...

Audra: Right. Have you seen, I think it was a news article on these nursing homes, and was it in Canada? That are combining orphanages and nursing homes.

Ruth: Oh that is such a great idea.

Justin: That’s brilliant.

Ruth: Yeah, I saw that where they were having... Pairing them up being buddies... That's such a great idea.

Audra: That’s, talk about the beautiful life force energy there, right? The bookends that we used to have in multi-generational homes like yours, Ruth. You know, that used to be the way.

Ruth: As it should be.

Audra: Yes, and so finding other ways to make it the way. Yeah, like your waiting room or like a way of organizing living like that. Justin's aunt actually runs an orphanage in Mexico, and what they do is they pull folks together in family units, so they actually have like... The kids aren’t just all housed in a dormitory together. They pull together these little homes that are multi-generational homes.

Ruth: So great.

Audra: Super cool.

Ruth: You lose out on so much wisdom not doing that.

Justin: So Ruth, before we go, if anyone is in, lives in Southern California and they want to access your practice and your skills, how can they get ahold of you?

Ruth: You can go online and search Open Mind Modalities. Our website is ommacupuncture.com. And you can find all the information of our clinics there.

Justin: Beautiful.

Audra: Two clinics in Orange County.

Ruth: Yes!

Audra: And if you're interested in pediatric healthcare, hospital care where there is acupuncture integrated into the system, take a look at Children's Hospital of Orange County.

Ruth: True.

Justin: Awesome.

Ruth: I miss you both so much!

Audra: We miss you, Ruth.

Justin: The feeling is mutual. Hey, thanks for listening to The Family Thrive podcast. If you like what you heard, please subscribe, tell two friends and head on over to Apple Podcasts, or anywhere you listen to podcasts, and give us a review. We're so grateful you've chosen to join us on this Family Thrive journey.


Justin:
Dr. Ruth McCarty holds a special place in our hearts. Not only is she a highly accomplished traditional Chinese medicine practitioner working within mainstream Western medicine, but she played a huge role in our son's recovery after his initial brain surgery back in 2011, and we found ways to work with her ever since. So we're thrilled to bring you this week's episode.

Ruth: Every day, it's a guarantee, there are going to be challenges and obstructions, but the secret to that is staying in the flow, being connected to spirit service, and when you were giving your life to others, and that's the point of your movement, then it doesn't matter what life throws in your way.

Justin: Ruth McCarty practices Traditional Chinese Medicine, delivering integrative care to residents of Orange County, California, from infancy to adulthood.

Dr. McCarty has spent her career working to integrate these methods into Western medical institutions to maximize the healing and comfort process for patients. This care is continued in her private practice, Open Mind Modalities with locations in Aliso Viejo and Orange, California. Today, she serves as the Clinical Director of Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine program at CHOC, Children's Hospital of Orange County in California.

She founded this program with her husband, neurosurgeon, William Loudon, MD PhD. She also serves as an associate faculty member at the Southern California University of Health Sciences in the College of Eastern Medicine. Dr. McCarty earned her doctorate degree of Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine at Pacific College of Oriental Medicine in San Diego, California, and completed internships at PCOM and at the San Diego Hospice Inpatient Care Center.

She completed fellowships in Pediatrics and Internal Medicine at the Traditional Chinese Medicine University Hospital in the Shandong province of China. Dr. McCarty has participated in medical missions to India, the Dominican Republic, and Kenya. Without further ado, here's our beautiful conversation with the inevitable Dr. Ruth McCarty.

Audra: Tell us what Traditional Chinese Medicine is.

Ruth: TCM, Traditional Chinese Medicine is a very old and eloquent system of medicine that's based on treatment modalities, initiating treatment modalities, that help the body heal itself. To help put harmony and balance into pathologies or illness that the body, the spirit, or the mind, it looks at the body as a whole kind of component to heal itself, and that's done with different treatment modalities like acupuncture, acupressure, massage, herbal medicine, cupping, Tui Na, moxibustion—those are all healing modalities that we offer in our clinic setting and in the hospital.

But one of the beautiful things about Chinese medicine, from the culture that it comes from, is that so many of these healing modalities, which are considered almost exotic in our culture, are part of the family tools at home to keep healthy. So herbs are used in cooking in China and in Asia. Therapeutic herbs that have healing properties are used in everyday cooking. Acupressure and moxibustion are therapies that are taught within family generations that are used at home to keep you healthy so you don't get sick, or even if you do get sick.

These are taught by your mother by your grandmother to keep you in a state of health. So that's, so where they’re considered they can be considered exotic in our culture, in one of the goals of the last 20 some years that I've been doing is to bring these into the home as part of the family toolbox for therapeutic care and prevention to keep our families healthy.

Audra: That's amazing. Most people don't think about when they think about, let's say acupuncture, because I don't think we, like most people who are not receiving care in this way, don't necessarily think of Traditional Chinese Medicine as a whole, but let's say acupressure is preventative, a lot of people think, think of these modalities is, “Hey, once you're injured, hurt or ill, I'm gonna go in and try this form of care,” but I think it is really powerful to think of the entire cultural-based lifestyle, it's really a lifestyle medicine in many ways, that to keep one healthy it that sounds like a balance to me. Not just focusing on sickness.

Ruth: Right, and that's been, I think one of the hardest things to impart or teach or even sell to my patient base is that you can use this medicine to stay healthy. Once people are integrated into care and they have been healed, then they understand it, but upfront to tell my patients, you do this so you don't end up sick, you do this to stay healthy, and that's really been an education process in my career too, because we're just not taught that in our culture.

Justin: No, I still am surprised for myself how I'll slip back into, I'll miss a couple days of meditation or some emotional processing practices and I'll start feeling kind of out of sorts again. It's like, “Oh yeah, this is like every other thing,” like eating healthy and working out, and that these are things that we have to do as a regular part of our lives, and we're not taught this when we're young.

Ruth: Agreed. And I think the word ‘practice’ is a really powerful word when you're thinking about self-care, it doesn't, the things that we practice to develop our self-care regime. I'm a meditator, I do yoga, but you need to put those healing modalities into that practice.

It's a really powerful word” ‘practice,’ and where people, and I'm afraid in our culture, it's all kind of a solution. What's the solution to this problem? And it's just they think of it as a one-time thing or a thing to get rid of that disharmony that you're feeling. But it needs to be a practice. It needs to be part of your life consistently.

Justin: Yeah, Ruth, can I just share this new theory that I have about Western culture, or at least the culture that I live in. Most of what we are sold and the regular things we do are avoidance stuff. It's like stuff to avoid dealing with emotional pain, with psychological issues, with... So whether it's scrolling our social media feed or anything else, it's all avoidance, it's all distraction. So these other practices are asking us to actively engage into...

Ruth: And when we do practice what happens? We become present, those are keywords, we become present in our practice where you're right, social media is the worst, and I’m as guilty as anybody. Although I have to say since we have a new president and a new administration, that my anxiety level and my news scrolling and my media scrolling has probably been cut by 92%.

Justin: Oh my gosh.

Ruth: Cuz I wake up in the morning and I'm like, “Oh, functioning adult.”

Justin: So I still kind of habitually listen to the news in the morning every day, and today I turned it on and the first thing they said is the president dut da du du da and I could feel my heart rate go up like, “Oh god, the president... What is he doing now?” I was like, “Oh wait, no, we have a different president now.”

Ruth: It’s so true.

Audra: So, Ruth can you tell us about the concept of, and you can correct me if I'm wrong, qi or chi, and you spoke of harmony and disharmony. I'd love to know more about this facet of Traditional Chinese Medicine.

Ruth: So qi is a word that is used in Chinese medicine. There are many, many different kinds of qi, and that is mostly referring to the different functions that energy have in our universe, in our body, but kind of as a base, qi is a natural life force within you, but it is also the life force in our world, in our universe, in our communities and our families, of how we relate to each other, of how our functions of our body relate to each other.

And when this qi is moving smoothly and freely and working the way it's supposed to, then we are in a state of harmony and things work. Like we all know when we've had a day and we've stayed in the flow. Like, what does that mean? Right, we've stayed in the flow where these connections and these relationships of this energy in our own body of how we relate to our family, of how we relate to our co-workers, of how we relate to nature around us is flowing freely. And that's when we have harmony.

One of the descriptions I use with kids and trying to talk about qi and how the free flow of qi means health and when it's not flowing freely is like, how do you feel when you're in the car with your mom and you're in a traffic jam on I-5, and you have to get somewhere and you can't get somewhere and you've gotta go to practice? Or you have to go to school? Or you're trying and you get, start getting caught and you start getting frustrated, and then everyone's voices raise and that's where qi is stuck. It's really easy to explain to kids what that feels like, and to adults.

Audra: They get it.

Ruth: Right. Yeah, yeah. So it's staying... Harmony is staying in that flow.

Audra: Yeah, yeah, that's what I wonder to have kids are more in touch with... “Yes, I'm in flow. No, I'm not,” because I feel like being with kids, they express it so beautifully.

Ruth: They have no filters.

Audra: Right, right.

Ruth: There's none of these filters and these protective shields that we all put up as adults or that avoidance thing. They're just kind of right in the, they're good at staying in the flow.

Audra: Right, right in it. So how does that affect your practice and because you work a lot with kids, you have a very unique practice from what I've learned about Traditional Chinese Medicine and the modalities you use, because you see adults and kids, you see a very large amount of folks with complex cases, complex diseases, and you work inpatient at Children's Hospital of Orange County as well.

You straddle the Eastern and Western, if you will, because you know a ton about the Western modalities, you're very, very well-versed in, in Western medicine, and I think it's one reason why your patients trust you so much because they know that you know what they're talking about in their treatment plans at the hospital, but you also are a doctor of Chinese medicine, and so there is that translational work that you do.

So I'm really interested in what it's like to treat kids and how they can speak to that flow or those blockages and represent that.

Ruth: So, I think the first thing I'm going to address in that eloquent description of my practice, which I thank you, is that you cannot treat a child without treating the parents, you just can’t.

Justin: We know that first hand.

Ruth: You can't. You have to address those family relationships, because what does a child look to the parent or the caregiver for? They look to them for everything. So to try to just change a disharmony, whether it's physical or emotional or spiritual, you have to address the connection between the parent and the child. And that's something that I think is not unique in Chinese medicine, that is part of the Chinese medicine approach to harmony. But I think that's unique within our practice, how it's implemented.

Audra: Yes.

Ruth: Even in the hospital. I may not be able to do acupuncture in the hospital, but we can do other things, or even being attentive and listening and present for parents has a huge therapeutic effect.

Audra: Huge.

Ruth: Huge.

Audra: Huge, yup.

Ruth: I think that's probably one of the most important things we do in our clinic, in our practice, is that we treat the family as a whole, which you guys know.

Audra: Well, absolutely, and it’s groundbreaking, Ruth, this gets into how we met, and so I really wanna go into that story a little bit and just put a pin in something before I do. I hope that we live to see a day where when a child is admitted to the hospital, or like our son, Max was directly to the ICU, that the entire family is put into care, take our insurance cards. All of us. Sign us all up. You know what I mean? Why does it have to be segmented? I asked for an aspirin that first night, I had the worst headache I've ever had, and they said, “Sorry, Mom, we can't do anything for you.”

Ruth: And it would be, I agree.

Audra: So we have to take your approach and the values behind this Traditional Chinese Medicine approach of treating the whole family to our greater healthcare system would be amazing. And this is what we saw beginning to be realized in our Ohana Project.

And so MaxLove Project had this wonderful, wonderful research study that we initiated with you, with Open Mind Modalities with Children's Hospital of Orange County, focused on a family-based approach to integrative health that included acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine. And the reason why we did this is because we learned first-hand ourselves and with countless other families, the value of what you provide.

And so we met, oh Ruth, it was nine-and-a-half years ago now. We met in the hospital. Our neurosurgeon is also your partner, your life partner, your husband. And he softly suggested that we see, he asked if we're interested in Traditional Chinese Medicine because you, his wife, practices in the hospital, and it was offered, and I think I remember being in such shock. I had no idea what the hell was going on, I knew we were open to it, but I didn't know what we could handle.

And so you just, I think gently came back and before we knew it, we were getting, going in and getting acupuncture with you before Max’s chemotherapy, after his chemotherapy every week, we were,  every time he was in the hospital you were there, and you’ve been his healer, one of his healers, I know that he has had a few, including your husband.

But you've been that presence for us and so many others, and one of the most beautiful things that came out of our time with you is not only an appreciation for the power of Traditional Chinese Medicine, personally. Like Max wouldn't know how to describe it, but he would just, I knew because he wanted to go. He's also an Aquarius, also a man of few words, but he always feels better.

Right, so one of the most magical things that happened is you have something that you offer that many, I don't know that there's another practice like it, where you offer a group treatment. And so we would be in the waiting room with all of these families who wanted to be treated together and we, the community that we built together, and now that you describe qi, that's what's flowing between all of us, right? That’s a power there.

Ruth: That's the perfect example of it.

Audra: This is how our work together was born. The MaxLove Project was born first as a service project, a way to give back and to build community, and seeing the power of what you are doing and combining that with our other BE SUPER action points that we developed, especially our work on nutrition. We just knew that we had to work together. The Ohana Project was born, we opened an office together in Orange, California, and the work continues. I know we have some really big dreams together too, but this is how... This is how we met, and I do believe that we're connected at such a deep level, and we're so grateful for you, Ruth.

Ruth: It’s likewise. I think one of the greatest losses of this pandemic with COVID is... Well, besides all the lives and the trauma, but I can't do community acupuncture in my waiting room because it's not safe. And I see the loss of that flow between the families, it's heartbreaking, it's heartbreaking. And I just pray and can't wait for the day that we can do that again.

Audra: So deeply therapeutic, empowering, powerful. I hear from all of the families is just, it's a huge hole in all of our lives. I think you're right, this is like a big part of the fallout from COVID, and as we come back into it, I know that it's a thing that we won't be taking for granted, for sure.

Ruth: That, that's my favorite part of my practice is how busy and beautiful my waiting room gets and the interaction between the kids and the parents, and the parents with other kids and... Oh my gosh. And the grandparents... And it's a beautiful, beautiful thing.

Audra: What you've created is a space for healing, and so as you're like physically and energetically working on that flow and really helping the flow of qi, I think, can’t this sort of thing happen everywhere, anywhere?

Ruth: Of course it can.

Audra: Every hospital...

Ruth: Of course it can.

Audra: …waiting room? We just don't think like that. So it's one thing that I love about what you do and the effect that you have, bringing your work into the hospital, is that it starts to seep in maybe more slowly than you and I would want... You've been doing this for a really long time. But what are some of the effects of your practice that you've seen change maybe some of the little things in the hospital, even interactions or things with associates and clinicians?

Ruth: I think to begin with, I started out one patient at a time. I told this story, I think I told this story to a parent yesterday, which I tell the story a lot because I'm asked, how did this start? Right. How did this start? And it started, I was treating a neurofibromatosis type II, which is benign tumors in your central nervous system or brain and spine.

And this young man, I think he was 12 when he started, Bill... Dr. Loudon did probably over 50 surgeries on his brain and spine, right. And he would have a pretty good quality of life after, but he would have intractable nausea and vomiting after surgery, not one cocktail, many, many drugs would touch it. Horrible. It would be horrible.

He was just constantly on IV fluids, it was so painful to watch, and I had been treating him out-patient, did not have in-patient privileges yet, and I went to round with Dr. Loudon on a Saturday afternoon, just to round in the hospital too, 'cause I knew he was in the hospital, he was a very beloved San Clemente hometown, local boy. And God bless Dr. Gary Goodman, who was the intensivist on that day. His kids, knew Taylor, it was just a very energetically connected group.
And Dr. Loudon looked at Dr. Goodman and said, “Give her temporary privileges,” as poor Taylor is just puking his brains out bedside and his parents feel so helpless to help him.

And Dr. Goodman said, “Okay.” And had him within hours, and that's how it started, and of course within 15 minutes of getting acupuncture, his nausea and vomiting stopped. That’s one of the truly miraculous effects of treatment, and it's so beautiful. And after I had temporary privileges, they started feeding me, “Can you help this, can you help that?” It was like I wasn't getting paid, but I was getting the opportunity to treat these kids in the hospital, and that started the path on getting permanent privileges, which was over a year process of going to medical executive committees.

And the first question they asked me, I'm like, I'm so nervous and I’ve prepared. And the first question they asked me is “Do you use sterile needles?” and I just like...

Audra: No, I use dirty ones. I just have one needle that I use for everybody.

Ruth: The education process of, we’re certified in clean needle technique and the entry-level degree to practice Chinese medicine at that time was a mass of four-years Masters. And then people go like, they just didn't know, it was ignorance.

Audra: Right.

Ruth: And the process after, through education, oh my gosh, was they were really happy to have me there. They were really happy to be able to offer this to patients.

Audra: And how many years has it been now?

Ruth: That was in 2002—well, it was 2001, and it took a year to get permanent privileges in 2002.

Audra: It's incredible. And how many folks do you have practicing with you at the hospital now?

Ruth: We now have... There's three credential practitioners. I'm having two more credentialed as we speak, they're in the process of getting their privileges. And then we have the internship program with Southern California Health Science Universities where I have doctoral students come in and intern with me and round and treat patients. That program is really great because practitioners are getting the opportunity to treat critical care, to treat NICU, to treat these types of patients you'd never see outpatient.

Audra: Right, right. And so it's from the NICU to the PICU, really? All the way through.

Ruth: All the way through.

Audra: It's incredible, and then you have the clinics where you can, where you can see these patients when they're home.

Ruth: Right. Continuity of care.

Audra: Oh it's beautiful. Beautiful, Ruth. That makes me think, we've talked about this incredible journey you've had.

Ruth: But let me go back to that last point. The point was, it was one patient at a time, that's how it's started, right? And that's how anything that lasts or anything of significance, it's just that one step that leads to the next step, and we have, all three of us, right? We have these giant aspirations, but we're gonna do it one step at a time.

Justin: So Ruth, now I wanna go back to the first step for you. How did this all begin where you knew you wanted to become a healer, and then acupuncture was gonna be your modality?

Ruth: So I've had some, still have, amazing mentors in my life of women healers. I think the most prominent being my mom, who was a nurse and a healer. And I was thinking about this, my great-grandmother was a sound healer.

Audra: Oh, really?

Ruth: And she was an herbalist and…

Justin: Wow.

Ruth: When my great-grandma was, when she came to live with us, I grew up in a multi-generational family, both my great-grandmas lived with us at one point, my grandma lived with us at one point, which I think we miss a lot in our culture from not having multi-generational families, because I got to see and benefit from their wisdom.

But my great-grandmother was, she lived such a sparse life, she was so ahead of her time, she recycled everything, she had her Bible, her little, she would make little vials of healing tinctures and then she would do this really beautiful sound healing, which I'm so sorry she did not give to me, but she kinda had dementia by the time she came to live with us. And she would just walk around and over you, she'd made these little “hrrrr, hrrr…”

My mom said when she was young, she would take my mom out into the country, they lived like rural country, she would take my mom when she was a child out into the country and go to these farms where there were no doctors, and with her little tinctures and do sound healing over them. Fascinating.

Justin: Wow, so this is like indigenous European, ancient European, folk healing.

Ruth: Folk healing at its finest. And then my mom took a more traditional route, and she was a nurse. She did a lot of home health care off the clock, she worked in a hospital. My mom was a very accomplished nurse, ran a hospital, worked in all kinds of units, but she was always doing, well, you have to go back to the basis like, I am a child of God in service, right. And that's how my mom raised me. We live our life in service to our creator, and we do it through helping others in healing.

So she was constantly taking me out into the... I never knew where we were going when I was a kid. She took me to Long View Asylum on the weekends. This is like a mental... It's a mental hospital. It's an asylum. It was the scariest place. And I was young enough for... I don't even know what we did there, but she would carry me in, so I was young enough to be carried.

And it was a scary place. She had to go through opening the locked gates, and I remember the attendants, they would cut cigarettes up into little pieces and they'd be allowed to smoke a cigarette like that big. And they were constantly wanting to touch me 'cause I was like, this child, right, and this was such a dark, scary place, but I don't even know what my mom did there. She did some kind of healing, nursing, something there.

Justin: Okay, I just have to ask about this story, Ruth. Can you remember how you felt?

Ruth: I was terrified. But my mom constantly, that was part of our, my training as to be in service, because you're in service to all mankind.

Audra: Right, right.

Ruth: That was my mom would... What I do remember, my mom would go in and the most wretched humans in this place... And they were wretched. Oh my god, mental, state mental hospitals back then, they probably... I don't even know if we have them anymore, so wretched, she would wash feet. She would go in and wash feet of the most wretched of wretched, poor people, completely out of their minds, and administer love and care to them. That's my earliest like memories.

Audra: And you're right. She did give that to you, right? And it's not just showing you all the beautiful things, it's inviting you into all of it.

Ruth: I can, from doing stuff like that, I can walk... I am confident to walk into this precarious situations.

Justin: Right, that's what I was thinking, that here you have this, this spiritual act of grace at the same time you're experiencing terror. And to like, to hold these two things together is amazing.

Ruth: I had this blonde like crazy hair when I was little, and I just remember them, the patients and their fingernails were so dirty and they weren’t... It was a scary place, but they all wanted to touch my hair, touch me…

Justin: Oh my gosh.

Audra: I can just imagine the light you brought in there.

Ruth: It was a great, that was the beginning, I was probably three or four years old then. It was great training.

And then when I was in elementary school, my mom, this is where I got my real start, my mom was the Director of Nursing at the Beachwood Home of the Incurable and Beachwood Home, it was like a nursing home. But in the turn of the century, if your child was born with developmental delays or cerebral palsy, or if your child contracted polio, you were institutionalized. You didn't get to bring your kid home, that was like, in our culture, it’s crazy, right? In other cultures, they don't do that, your child was put in an institution.

So this wealthy Procter and Gamble in Cincinnati, Procter and Gamble family, had a daughter with CP, with cerebral palsy, and they built the Beachwood Home for the Incurable. It was a beautiful, old type, marble floored mansion that they built this place to give their child a home.

So they started this home for these kids, as these kids grew up, it turned into a nursing home for geriatrics, and by the time my mom was the director of this place, it was all geriatric patients, but some of them had lived there since they were little kids. And I would go there every day after school, that's where I hung out, and all of these patients were my friends, like I would go and sit, the stories were fascinating, amazing stories that, um.

One of my best friends was Charlotte, who, she was in her 60s or 70s, no, she was older than that. Her 80s at the time, but she had contracted polio as a child, and her legs did not grow, she had... She was like a little doll, and she was in this big wheel chair, but she was an adult, and when she was, I think 19... This was way back in the early 1900s—when she was 19, he fell in love with an orderly, and if you were handicapped, you could not get married...You cannot get married. You could not have children. You were institutionalized.

So, she told me the story so many times, so this orderly, got a basket and rigged a rope, and he was going to lower her from the second story of the Beachwood Home for the Incurable and they were gonna run away together. And they got caught.

Audra: Oh my god.

Ruth: And he was fired and she never saw him again. And she had a picture of him by her bed.

Audra: Oh, heartbreaking.

Ruth: Oh my god, it was... I heard so many stories like that, they're truly beautiful. Oh gosh. So they grew up institutionalized, these kids, and I have found that I think I treat a lot of special needs kids in my practice, and I'm sure that's where I got my start. I love treating special needs kids, they're just such beautiful, light, joyous souls.

But another thing that happened to me there, because it was a nursing home, a geriatric, is that's where I got my start in end of-life care. And I would know who was on their way out and I would... I just knew, and I would sit, sometimes I'd sit... They had these really high beds, I think, 'cause it made it easier for the staff, but when I was little, I could sit under their beds. So when patients were dying, oftentimes either it was to stay out of the way, I don't know why, but I'd sit under their beds with them, or I'd sit with them until they left.

And it was, the one thing I want to tell, there are so many things to talk about end-of-life care, but the one thing I want your listeners to know is that adults and children from doing end-of-life care at CHOC and in my practice, they do not leave unprepared. They do not leave unprepared, they are visited and prepared, and it can be so difficult and heartbreaking, but where, you don't leave alone and you don't leave unprepared.

Justin: Ruth, I’m having a realization that we need to schedule another interview just to talk about end-of-life care.

Ruth: There’s a lot to talk about.

Justin: This is such a great topic. It might strike listeners to The Family Thrive like, “Hey, this is a little dark,” but every family is dealing with end-of-life care.

Ruth: We’re all gonna die.

Justin: …It's gonna touch everybody. And so this podcast is not just about the happy, great parts of family life, which of course it is, but it's also gonna be about these painful parts of the journey that people like you know a lot about. And we would really love to really open up and have a lot of time with this.

Audra: Yeah, I'm really interested just for a moment, as we keep continuing in your journey, learning about your journey, Ruth, to know as... So as a child and a young person, you are... It sounds like you were just attuned to the transition. And you just... You just knew.

Ruth: It wasn't something I learned, definitely. It was just something that I was aware of from my earliest, earliest, earliest memories.

Audra: And you were not scared. You wanted to be with people.

Ruth: No, I was never scared. I don't know, maybe my mom carried me into the mental asylum...

Audra: It's so powerful, Ruth, and we need more of you and your voice and your perspective to help us have these conversations and normalize what is the most normal aspect of humanity that we haven't normalized, you know.

Ruth: And we've so avoided it in our culture. It's horrible how we've avoided it. It's horrible. We all suffer because of it.

Audra: So much. So much, and then we avoid that suffering.

Ruth: And then we get sick.

Audra: But it's beautiful. So you transition with people, you chose to be there with people as they’re transitioning, and you've done that ever since.

Ruth: Ever since. My whole life. Yes, and I think the path that I've been following with my practice and in the hospital has allowed me to do more of that, and I'm so grateful. I'm so grateful. It's some of the most beautiful, amazing. It's the point of your whole life are those moments when you make that transition. Truly, truly.

Audra: So you grew up in this, imagine this, maternal line of matriarch healers.

Ruth: True.

Audra: And I could see them almost as you're describing this journey, and you end up in San Diego, California as an art major.

Ruth: Yes. So, I have to be honest about this. I grew up in Ohio. I really did not enjoy the Midwest because I like to be outside all the time. I found great joy and comfort in nature, and it's hard to do that when it's either too hot and humid to be outside or too cold to be outside.

Audra: Right, right.

Ruth: So I, from a really early age, my mom told me before I was five, I started telling her I'm moving to California. And she was like, “What? Yeah, whatever. ” I had never been here, I had never been here before I moved here.

Audra: You just knew.

Ruth: So I moved to California, and when I got here, I was like, “Are you kidding me? People have lived like this the whole time and I didn't know.” I picked my college, I went to UCSD, University of California, San Diego, but I picked my college solely on its location.

Audra: And art.

Justin: And the ocean and you’ve never left.

Ruth: I was pursuing art. And it had a great art program, but it was mostly because of where it was located.

Audra: You know what, one thing that was really interesting that we had a podcast with earlier, our wonderful friend and contributor to The Family Thrive, Jenny Walters, and she is also a healer. She's a therapist, psychologist who was a fine art photographer, and she described, Justin, do you remember how she said that she described how therapy and doing art made her feel the same way because it was in touch with the same thing. It was in touch with the same healing, it was in touch with, there's some sort of…

Justin: Some energetic flow.

Audra: It was energetic. She was like, once I got that, I saw... So was there a relationship for you between that art creative, artistic process for you?

Ruth: Absolutely. I mean, art is an expression of your soul. And your soul is every aspect, your mental, spiritual, physical... Every aspect. In the art I did, I did collective pieces and sculpture, I was a dumpster diver in college. I was like... I think it goes back to my great-grandmother, the recycler way before her time, found a use for every single thing, but I was constantly rescuing things and trying to make something beautiful out of it, and it does... It touches your soul. That's why art... And Chinese medicine is an art. So many Chinese medicine practitioners have previous art histories.

Justin: Well, that makes sense. Yeah.

Audra: Yeah, it's really cool. So, then you became an acupuncturist. You found your way.

Ruth: My path, it's so long and varied. I moved to California, went to UCSD, and while I was in college, I became a first responder and beach lifeguard. Which was another way to be able to sit outside and such a gift to watch the sun traverse the sky and all the things that happened in nature, and it was part of my service, I was serving people, keeping people safe. The first responder aspect, I was really interested in healthcare. It served that need.

Because it was kind of a seasonal job, that meant that I had months when it wasn't the season to travel and surf. So I was living the endless summer traveling all over the world, surfing, immersing myself in different cultures, learning about their art and their healing practices. It was... And honestly, I would have done it forever.

Audra: What changed?

Ruth: I had... Well, I think God was giving me little nudges saying, you can't do the endless summer thing forever, and I didn't listen. So I went from being a very fit, high trained person using my physical abilities to perform my job, to breaking my neck and laying in bed for, in chronic pain for months, a year.

Audra: Did you break your neck surfing?

Ruth: No, it was an accident. But having my whole... So much of my identity was wrapped up in my physical abilities, and all of a sudden I had none. So I had to do a lot of soul searching, dealing with heavy, heavy... It's hard. Depression, when you can't... Chronic pain is horrible. But that experience, when a person walks into my clinic or I am consulted on a person in terrible pain or chronic pain, I know that look in their eye.

Justin: You know.

Ruth: I have great empathy for that. So I sought out alternative medicine because Western medicine had nothing to offer me once my structural, my bones were healed, I had terrible soft tissue injury. And that just wasn't healing. And Western medicine doesn't have a lot to offer for that chronic condition. Ao I sought out acupuncture, I sought out Chinese medicine, helped me so much within three months of getting my first treatment, I was enrolling in graduate school to become a Chinese medicine practitioner.

Justin: Wow. Wow. Oh, what I'm hearing here is a connection to something that we've talked about earlier, not on this podcast, but in the past, your definition for thriving, you told me was moving through life without obstruction. And so this point in your life, you broke your neck, total chronic pain, feels like a huge obstruction. What's striking me right now is that that obstruction led to something really beautiful.

Ruth: I think I'm hard-headed, I don't know.

Justin: Well, can you talk more about your definition of thriving?

Ruth: Yeah, thriving when I... And that's gonna go back to staying in the flow. When I said moving through life without obstruction, that doesn't mean life without challenges, because that's a guarantee. Every day it’s a guarantee, there are going to be challenges and obstructions that the secret to that is staying in the flow, and for me, it's staying connected to spirit and service. And when you are giving your life to others, and that's the point of your movement then it doesn't matter what life throws in your way.

'Cause, this is for me, if I stay on the path of service and I stay giving my life to God, then I know it doesn't, I know I'm on the right path, no matter what gets thrown my way. That's kind of the deeper meaning of that for me, yeah.

Audra: So Ruth, you spent time in China after graduate school?

Ruth: I did. Yes.

Audra: And can you tell us some of these experiences when it comes to flow, when it comes to that definition of thriving. Did you have any experience with some of these ways of looking at life and existence in Chinese culture in a different way than presents here?

Ruth: So China, my experience in China was one of great contradiction. I thought I was so excited to go and the medicine was beautiful, wonderful. It was a great experience as far as the medicine. Living in a very communist country where people are constantly in fear of the government, constant, it’s not like it is now. So that part was... It was hard for me. Quality of life for people in China when I was there was really difficult. It was so difficult. There was the... A culture that is so old, you’d think that they would have waste management down. But they don’t.

Audra: No.

Ruth: Oh, it's horrible. I just couldn't believe that. How you guys understand Chinese medicine, the flow and obstruction, and so I just... They didn't put a lot of value on people, which was hard for me. People treating each other like family units, I never saw an elderly person come to a doctor's appointment by themselves.

Elderly were revered there, even if there were no elevators in the Chinese medicine hospital, so you had to take the stairs. And if an elderly person came, I saw elderly people come in wheelbarrows wrapped in beautifully homemade silk quilts and then the family members would carry the wheelbarrow up the stairs. It was just like so many contradictions in China.

But one of the most beautiful things I saw was how Chinese medicine was used in the family unit with cooking of these medicinal herbs and practices like moxibustion and Tui Na, and gua sha was used at home preventatively, that was a really beautiful thing. But man, it was hard watching how little value was put on life there from the government’s standpoint.

Audra: So dynamic, and it sounds like such a deep resistance in the communist regime to the culture.

Ruth: Yes.

Audra: And to the history of China, it was like...

Ruth: It was shocking to me. I came home so thankful for public restrooms and plumbing, and I've been all over the world. I'm not like a faint of heart traveler, but I think the massive humanity there also was shocking to me, just how many people... And I rode my bike, I got a bike and would ride to the hospital every day. I was the only person wearing a bike helmet, nobody wears a, millions of bikers. There are so many head injuries in China. I would go the same... Right, the same route to the hospital every day and people would point out at me and go “Big head, big head!”

Justin: So Ruth, I wanna shift gears real quick, so you've said in the past that if you have one self-care piece of advice for parents that it would be “Breathe.” And I know you’ve... I think you've told us this in the past too, I think I actually remember you telling me this in 2011 when I brought Max in for the first time, like “Dad, breathe.” So can you tell more about, is it a special type of breathing... What... Can you talk more about this piece of advice?

Ruth: So we're gonna get back to that word of practice again, and self-care. Part of my daily practice is Kriya yoga, which is a breath technique, to develop a closer relationship with God. That's the basis of it.

Now, what goes along with doing breathing techniques, there are many types of breathing techniques, Kriya is just the one that I practice. But it brings you, besides all the physiological benefits that happens to your body, it brings you into the present to breathe, right?

And if you are being present and not stressing out about what could be or what has been and staying present, that's what I think what breathing really does, is that your anxiety level would go down and you will put yourself back into that flow with spirit. So my practice, I have a pretty... And what you were talking about the beginning, Justin, when if I fall out of my practice, man, I know I'm gonna pay. It's not like, it's not like I have to do this, it's like, if I don't do this, what will happen?

So my practice involves, I do a good hour of meditation every morning and breathing techniques, and that includes just being quiet and sitting with God, and then I do a lot of dialogue with God.

Justin: Is there any special or is there any quick breathing practice that you can give parents? Like if things are really intense, is there just a quick method?

Ruth: Yes, if you count your breaths in. If you just do, count the time of taking a breath in for five seconds, hold it for five seconds and exhale it for five seconds. If you do that 10 times, your whole physiological make-up will be different, your mind... It will be so different just doing that.

Audra: Ruth, I love that. I think it's a really beautiful, tangible first step, baby step, but also just a daily thing to incorporate in one's life. Right, that's something that you can take a second to do. You can set your watch, you can set up some reminders to do something like that throughout the day. I wanted to ask you, this isn't just advice you give, you give parents through your practice and that you practice yourself, but you're also a mom. And we haven't talked about... We haven't talked about that yet.

We absolutely love your beautiful son, Jesse who is now a full grown man. It’s amazing. And of course, you and Dr. Loudon share a family. Do you impart any of this on your kids, is this something that these practices... Do you share these practices with them?

Ruth: Yes, actually, I just want us, being a mom, best thing ever, best, best, best, best thing I've ever done. Heather, you know Heather, one of our practitioners, just had a baby.

Audra: Oh Heather had her baby, congrats!

Ruth: She had a boy, so beautiful, and it's just the best thing you can do, just... Gosh. It's the best gift from God ever. Children, but all of our kids, we have four kids between us, all of our kids always wanted Chinese medicine but nobody went that path, so I'm hoping, I became a grandma this year, this past year for the second generation. But yeah, they all... Jesse's a meditator, he’s really about good food and healthy lifestyle, and Elliot, the oldest son is a firefighter, Emily's a nurse, his wife, we've... I think we've imparted the idea of service onto our kids.

Audra: Absolutely.

Ruth: I think I had more influence on Jesse that Jesse's really taken the ‘be still’ concept and run with it, and he has a practice. Definitely.

Audra: How is that... Is that for you with... I can imagine a parent listening to this thinking, “Okay, how do I get started?” Was it... Is it modeling the way... Did you have open conversations? Did you do it together? How did this start for Jesse?

Ruth: From day one, of course. I asked, it was funny, I asked Bill and Jesse, your last questions that you put your MaxLove questions, about your quotes. And Jesse was... I raised Jesse, as my mom raised me, with a lot of Ralph Waldo Emerson. And Jesse's quote was a Ralph Waldo Emerson quote  that I wrote above his bed. I think when he was in, when school was getting kinda hard, maybe like sixth, seventh, eighth grade I wrote... “Discontent is the want of self-reliance” above his bed on the wall, and that was the quote he gave me. “Like of course Mom, that one.

Audra: Of course. That's awesome.

Justin: It starts early.

Ruth: Well, you have to start it early, 'cause those practices, man, it takes a long time to... I tried to get him to start breathing and meditating way earlier than he really embraced it. It takes a long time to find your way, but I just wanted him to be aware it was there.

Justin: Yeah, and just patience.

Ruth: Yeah you have to take those steps and figure it out, that's part of the life. But as an adult, you wanna tell your kids, but you can bypass so much angst.

Justin: Well the research, the research shows that parents, when parents eat healthier, their kids are more... Or when parents eat whole foods, their kids are more likely to eat whole foods later in life, and same with exercising. So I imagine there's gotta be something with meditation and breathing and these practices as well, that you don't need to force it on them, but if they see that it's a regular part of your life, that it will eventually start to weave itself into their life.

Ruth: And that has panned out. He's a daily meditator. And he says the same thing, “Oh, man life gets too hard if I don't do it.”

Audra: That's really powerful, Ruth. It makes me think that for parents who are looking to find that first place to start, that the breathing technique that you talked about, the five seconds or the box breathing technique is a great place to start and when potentially when something blows up with your child, like let's say you're in a moment, everyone's having a moment, the big feelings are coming out. One of the things that we can do is, “Hey, let's just breathe together for a minute. Can we do that?”

Ruth: So powerful, so powerful. And there are so many apps and ways now that it's so accessible to everybody.

Justin: Yeah, and like... Well, so the consensus recommendation on exercise amongst researchers and physicians who are into this is that just find the exercise type that you like, just find what you like and do that. And I think because we have, now have so many different meditation apps and approaches, I think the same thing could be said for that. Find the one that you like. Find the way that it works for you.

Ruth: Absolutely, there's not just one way to do anything. Oh my gosh. We're also different as human beings, you know?

Audra: Yeah, Ruth, how did you connect with... Okay, so you told us that your most important self-care practice is meditation, we talked about breathing, we talked about your breathing practice and a bit about your meditation practice… Can you tell us how you connected with your meditation practice and what does it look like for you? How did you learn it?

Ruth: I do Kriya yoga, that's part of the Self-Realization Fellowship, and I think living in... I lived in Encinitas and Del Mar, where they have a center there that they teach it. So it was local, and it just called to me. I was just very, very comfortable there. It's not a religion. It is, they teach a practice to develop your own relationship with God and that just... That spoke to me.

Audra: Yeah, in your family. Do you find that, that... I know your husband meditates as well. We know…

Ruth: He does.

Audra: Dr. Loudon, very well. He's very dear to us also, and he's very open about his meditation practice, does he... Does he follow a similar practice or do something else call to him?

Ruth: He started doing TM when he was younger, and then last year, he started in doing the Kriya techniques. So we do Kriya together, it's a really nice way, we try to end the day. This year, I have time to do it sometimes, like my main practice is in the morning, first thing when I get up, and then we do... Not always at the end of the day.

But what I've been doing with Dr. Loudon now, I think his schedule has changed a little bit so I can throw this in. So at the end of the day, we're doing down dog, so we're doing more yoga, physical yoga, and then that always... I found if I can get him to do that. So I do my... I do an hour of that when I get home from work every day, and he always gets home later than me. So then I tack on to 20 minutes for him and help him, and then we're in a much better position to sit down and meditate.

Audra: That is awesome, that resonates with me as a physicality kind of first like I have found that doing stretching, you call it yoga or stretching, and then breathing, and then in terms of a practice for me has been really helpful.

Ruth: It's really hard after a day of work to just come and sit down and be quiet, you have to do something to let go of all that stuff. And stretching has been really positive for both of us like that.

Justin: So Ruth, you alluded to these final questions that we have, and so these are three questions that we ask every podcast guest, and I love the fact that you ask these to Bill and Jesse as well. So if you wanna share their answers, we would...we'd love to hear it, but let's start... Let's start with the first one. So, Ruth, if you could put a big post-it note on every parent's fridge tomorrow morning, what would it say?

Ruth: So mine, it would say “Love God.” That would be mine. I asked my husband this morning as he was leaving, and he said, “Hug your kids.”

Justin: Oh my gosh. Coming from him, he knows what's behind that too. Yeah, there's a lot of depth there.

Ruth: And the one from Jesse, I felt like, oh, I succeeded in some way, Jesse was “Pack your kids a healthy lunch.”

Justin: Right on the fridge. Perfect.

Ruth: I thought it was funny.

Audra: Oh, that's awesome. So we talked about the quote a little bit, we talked about Jesse's quote, what is the last quote that changed the way you think or feel?

Ruth: Oh, it was so powerful, and I'm going to use the sweet dear Amanda Gorman. Oh my gosh.

Audra: Isn’t she so powerful. Isn’t she?

Ruth: Yeah, so powerful. “For it’s our grief that gives us our gratitude, shows us how to find hope if we ever lose it, to ensure that this ache wasn't endured in vain, do not ignore the pain, give it purpose. Use it.”

Audra: Yes, yes, yes.

Justin: Love that.

Ruth: She is so young. Gosh, all the beautiful stuff that we'll get from her.

Audra: Everything. I'm voting for her. I’m on the campaign team.

Justin: She's not running. But you're voting.

Audra: She said she will.

Justin: Oh, cool. Me too. So our final question is really just the context of it, is that when you're in the thick of parenting and it's just the daily grind and everything's going on, it's so easy just to sit back and be like, “Oh my god, kids, they're driving me crazy.” But we want to just end this by celebrating kids because kids are amazing, and so what is your favorite thing about kids?

Ruth: Their joy. Kids are so joyful, even in the worst of the worst. They will find some little thing to be joy about. It’s just so, so connected, they're still so connected to the source… I think we forget it as adults.

Justin: I love that. So all of the things that we do to protect ourselves from pain: all the avoidance and the distractions are also keeping us from the joy, and that’s what the kids don't have as all those avoidant coping walls built up yet.

Ruth: They'll be so honest about how terrible something can be, and then in the next second, be so joyous about how something can be.

Justin: Oh, there's wisdom there right? It's like, you gotta take the pain and the joy, the grief and the love. It's all there together.

Ruth: Exactly.

Audra: You know what Ruth? It really strikes me. I've learned so much about this in the childhood cancer journey with Max and with all of the other families we've walked with, and along the same lines always inspires me how the kids keep us going, 'cause all they want to do is just to do them.

Ruth: That’s true. I wanna share this.

Audra: Yes, yes.

Ruth: Because when we were talking about not having my waiting room going, right. I have a busy clinic. I have five or six treatment rooms and my waiting room going at the same time. And once we went into COVID and opened back up, and I didn't have a waiting room, in the middle of my day I was like, “Why am I so tired? Like do I have something wrong with me?” And I realized I wasn't like that qi that I get from an over packed waiting room wasn't there. It was a big adjustment for me.

Audra: The waiting room qi. Now, it's a beautiful, beautiful thing to point out, and in the family unit, we talk a lot about how we need to care for the whole family, and I think parents being aware of qi and kind of their own energetic flow or lack thereof, and how we can be impacting our kids, but also recognizing how our kids are positively and powerfully impacting us with that energy.

Ruth: So true, so true. Oh, gosh I should just see a happy kid. Just see a happy kid and I'm like...

Audra: Right. Have you seen, I think it was a news article on these nursing homes, and was it in Canada? That are combining orphanages and nursing homes.

Ruth: Oh that is such a great idea.

Justin: That’s brilliant.

Ruth: Yeah, I saw that where they were having... Pairing them up being buddies... That's such a great idea.

Audra: That’s, talk about the beautiful life force energy there, right? The bookends that we used to have in multi-generational homes like yours, Ruth. You know, that used to be the way.

Ruth: As it should be.

Audra: Yes, and so finding other ways to make it the way. Yeah, like your waiting room or like a way of organizing living like that. Justin's aunt actually runs an orphanage in Mexico, and what they do is they pull folks together in family units, so they actually have like... The kids aren’t just all housed in a dormitory together. They pull together these little homes that are multi-generational homes.

Ruth: So great.

Audra: Super cool.

Ruth: You lose out on so much wisdom not doing that.

Justin: So Ruth, before we go, if anyone is in, lives in Southern California and they want to access your practice and your skills, how can they get ahold of you?

Ruth: You can go online and search Open Mind Modalities. Our website is ommacupuncture.com. And you can find all the information of our clinics there.

Justin: Beautiful.

Audra: Two clinics in Orange County.

Ruth: Yes!

Audra: And if you're interested in pediatric healthcare, hospital care where there is acupuncture integrated into the system, take a look at Children's Hospital of Orange County.

Ruth: True.

Justin: Awesome.

Ruth: I miss you both so much!

Audra: We miss you, Ruth.

Justin: The feeling is mutual. Hey, thanks for listening to The Family Thrive podcast. If you like what you heard, please subscribe, tell two friends and head on over to Apple Podcasts, or anywhere you listen to podcasts, and give us a review. We're so grateful you've chosen to join us on this Family Thrive journey.


Justin:
Dr. Ruth McCarty holds a special place in our hearts. Not only is she a highly accomplished traditional Chinese medicine practitioner working within mainstream Western medicine, but she played a huge role in our son's recovery after his initial brain surgery back in 2011, and we found ways to work with her ever since. So we're thrilled to bring you this week's episode.

Ruth: Every day, it's a guarantee, there are going to be challenges and obstructions, but the secret to that is staying in the flow, being connected to spirit service, and when you were giving your life to others, and that's the point of your movement, then it doesn't matter what life throws in your way.

Justin: Ruth McCarty practices Traditional Chinese Medicine, delivering integrative care to residents of Orange County, California, from infancy to adulthood.

Dr. McCarty has spent her career working to integrate these methods into Western medical institutions to maximize the healing and comfort process for patients. This care is continued in her private practice, Open Mind Modalities with locations in Aliso Viejo and Orange, California. Today, she serves as the Clinical Director of Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine program at CHOC, Children's Hospital of Orange County in California.

She founded this program with her husband, neurosurgeon, William Loudon, MD PhD. She also serves as an associate faculty member at the Southern California University of Health Sciences in the College of Eastern Medicine. Dr. McCarty earned her doctorate degree of Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine at Pacific College of Oriental Medicine in San Diego, California, and completed internships at PCOM and at the San Diego Hospice Inpatient Care Center.

She completed fellowships in Pediatrics and Internal Medicine at the Traditional Chinese Medicine University Hospital in the Shandong province of China. Dr. McCarty has participated in medical missions to India, the Dominican Republic, and Kenya. Without further ado, here's our beautiful conversation with the inevitable Dr. Ruth McCarty.

Audra: Tell us what Traditional Chinese Medicine is.

Ruth: TCM, Traditional Chinese Medicine is a very old and eloquent system of medicine that's based on treatment modalities, initiating treatment modalities, that help the body heal itself. To help put harmony and balance into pathologies or illness that the body, the spirit, or the mind, it looks at the body as a whole kind of component to heal itself, and that's done with different treatment modalities like acupuncture, acupressure, massage, herbal medicine, cupping, Tui Na, moxibustion—those are all healing modalities that we offer in our clinic setting and in the hospital.

But one of the beautiful things about Chinese medicine, from the culture that it comes from, is that so many of these healing modalities, which are considered almost exotic in our culture, are part of the family tools at home to keep healthy. So herbs are used in cooking in China and in Asia. Therapeutic herbs that have healing properties are used in everyday cooking. Acupressure and moxibustion are therapies that are taught within family generations that are used at home to keep you healthy so you don't get sick, or even if you do get sick.

These are taught by your mother by your grandmother to keep you in a state of health. So that's, so where they’re considered they can be considered exotic in our culture, in one of the goals of the last 20 some years that I've been doing is to bring these into the home as part of the family toolbox for therapeutic care and prevention to keep our families healthy.

Audra: That's amazing. Most people don't think about when they think about, let's say acupuncture, because I don't think we, like most people who are not receiving care in this way, don't necessarily think of Traditional Chinese Medicine as a whole, but let's say acupressure is preventative, a lot of people think, think of these modalities is, “Hey, once you're injured, hurt or ill, I'm gonna go in and try this form of care,” but I think it is really powerful to think of the entire cultural-based lifestyle, it's really a lifestyle medicine in many ways, that to keep one healthy it that sounds like a balance to me. Not just focusing on sickness.

Ruth: Right, and that's been, I think one of the hardest things to impart or teach or even sell to my patient base is that you can use this medicine to stay healthy. Once people are integrated into care and they have been healed, then they understand it, but upfront to tell my patients, you do this so you don't end up sick, you do this to stay healthy, and that's really been an education process in my career too, because we're just not taught that in our culture.

Justin: No, I still am surprised for myself how I'll slip back into, I'll miss a couple days of meditation or some emotional processing practices and I'll start feeling kind of out of sorts again. It's like, “Oh yeah, this is like every other thing,” like eating healthy and working out, and that these are things that we have to do as a regular part of our lives, and we're not taught this when we're young.

Ruth: Agreed. And I think the word ‘practice’ is a really powerful word when you're thinking about self-care, it doesn't, the things that we practice to develop our self-care regime. I'm a meditator, I do yoga, but you need to put those healing modalities into that practice.

It's a really powerful word” ‘practice,’ and where people, and I'm afraid in our culture, it's all kind of a solution. What's the solution to this problem? And it's just they think of it as a one-time thing or a thing to get rid of that disharmony that you're feeling. But it needs to be a practice. It needs to be part of your life consistently.

Justin: Yeah, Ruth, can I just share this new theory that I have about Western culture, or at least the culture that I live in. Most of what we are sold and the regular things we do are avoidance stuff. It's like stuff to avoid dealing with emotional pain, with psychological issues, with... So whether it's scrolling our social media feed or anything else, it's all avoidance, it's all distraction. So these other practices are asking us to actively engage into...

Ruth: And when we do practice what happens? We become present, those are keywords, we become present in our practice where you're right, social media is the worst, and I’m as guilty as anybody. Although I have to say since we have a new president and a new administration, that my anxiety level and my news scrolling and my media scrolling has probably been cut by 92%.

Justin: Oh my gosh.

Ruth: Cuz I wake up in the morning and I'm like, “Oh, functioning adult.”

Justin: So I still kind of habitually listen to the news in the morning every day, and today I turned it on and the first thing they said is the president dut da du du da and I could feel my heart rate go up like, “Oh god, the president... What is he doing now?” I was like, “Oh wait, no, we have a different president now.”

Ruth: It’s so true.

Audra: So, Ruth can you tell us about the concept of, and you can correct me if I'm wrong, qi or chi, and you spoke of harmony and disharmony. I'd love to know more about this facet of Traditional Chinese Medicine.

Ruth: So qi is a word that is used in Chinese medicine. There are many, many different kinds of qi, and that is mostly referring to the different functions that energy have in our universe, in our body, but kind of as a base, qi is a natural life force within you, but it is also the life force in our world, in our universe, in our communities and our families, of how we relate to each other, of how our functions of our body relate to each other.

And when this qi is moving smoothly and freely and working the way it's supposed to, then we are in a state of harmony and things work. Like we all know when we've had a day and we've stayed in the flow. Like, what does that mean? Right, we've stayed in the flow where these connections and these relationships of this energy in our own body of how we relate to our family, of how we relate to our co-workers, of how we relate to nature around us is flowing freely. And that's when we have harmony.

One of the descriptions I use with kids and trying to talk about qi and how the free flow of qi means health and when it's not flowing freely is like, how do you feel when you're in the car with your mom and you're in a traffic jam on I-5, and you have to get somewhere and you can't get somewhere and you've gotta go to practice? Or you have to go to school? Or you're trying and you get, start getting caught and you start getting frustrated, and then everyone's voices raise and that's where qi is stuck. It's really easy to explain to kids what that feels like, and to adults.

Audra: They get it.

Ruth: Right. Yeah, yeah. So it's staying... Harmony is staying in that flow.

Audra: Yeah, yeah, that's what I wonder to have kids are more in touch with... “Yes, I'm in flow. No, I'm not,” because I feel like being with kids, they express it so beautifully.

Ruth: They have no filters.

Audra: Right, right.

Ruth: There's none of these filters and these protective shields that we all put up as adults or that avoidance thing. They're just kind of right in the, they're good at staying in the flow.

Audra: Right, right in it. So how does that affect your practice and because you work a lot with kids, you have a very unique practice from what I've learned about Traditional Chinese Medicine and the modalities you use, because you see adults and kids, you see a very large amount of folks with complex cases, complex diseases, and you work inpatient at Children's Hospital of Orange County as well.

You straddle the Eastern and Western, if you will, because you know a ton about the Western modalities, you're very, very well-versed in, in Western medicine, and I think it's one reason why your patients trust you so much because they know that you know what they're talking about in their treatment plans at the hospital, but you also are a doctor of Chinese medicine, and so there is that translational work that you do.

So I'm really interested in what it's like to treat kids and how they can speak to that flow or those blockages and represent that.

Ruth: So, I think the first thing I'm going to address in that eloquent description of my practice, which I thank you, is that you cannot treat a child without treating the parents, you just can’t.

Justin: We know that first hand.

Ruth: You can't. You have to address those family relationships, because what does a child look to the parent or the caregiver for? They look to them for everything. So to try to just change a disharmony, whether it's physical or emotional or spiritual, you have to address the connection between the parent and the child. And that's something that I think is not unique in Chinese medicine, that is part of the Chinese medicine approach to harmony. But I think that's unique within our practice, how it's implemented.

Audra: Yes.

Ruth: Even in the hospital. I may not be able to do acupuncture in the hospital, but we can do other things, or even being attentive and listening and present for parents has a huge therapeutic effect.

Audra: Huge.

Ruth: Huge.

Audra: Huge, yup.

Ruth: I think that's probably one of the most important things we do in our clinic, in our practice, is that we treat the family as a whole, which you guys know.

Audra: Well, absolutely, and it’s groundbreaking, Ruth, this gets into how we met, and so I really wanna go into that story a little bit and just put a pin in something before I do. I hope that we live to see a day where when a child is admitted to the hospital, or like our son, Max was directly to the ICU, that the entire family is put into care, take our insurance cards. All of us. Sign us all up. You know what I mean? Why does it have to be segmented? I asked for an aspirin that first night, I had the worst headache I've ever had, and they said, “Sorry, Mom, we can't do anything for you.”

Ruth: And it would be, I agree.

Audra: So we have to take your approach and the values behind this Traditional Chinese Medicine approach of treating the whole family to our greater healthcare system would be amazing. And this is what we saw beginning to be realized in our Ohana Project.

And so MaxLove Project had this wonderful, wonderful research study that we initiated with you, with Open Mind Modalities with Children's Hospital of Orange County, focused on a family-based approach to integrative health that included acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine. And the reason why we did this is because we learned first-hand ourselves and with countless other families, the value of what you provide.

And so we met, oh Ruth, it was nine-and-a-half years ago now. We met in the hospital. Our neurosurgeon is also your partner, your life partner, your husband. And he softly suggested that we see, he asked if we're interested in Traditional Chinese Medicine because you, his wife, practices in the hospital, and it was offered, and I think I remember being in such shock. I had no idea what the hell was going on, I knew we were open to it, but I didn't know what we could handle.

And so you just, I think gently came back and before we knew it, we were getting, going in and getting acupuncture with you before Max’s chemotherapy, after his chemotherapy every week, we were,  every time he was in the hospital you were there, and you’ve been his healer, one of his healers, I know that he has had a few, including your husband.

But you've been that presence for us and so many others, and one of the most beautiful things that came out of our time with you is not only an appreciation for the power of Traditional Chinese Medicine, personally. Like Max wouldn't know how to describe it, but he would just, I knew because he wanted to go. He's also an Aquarius, also a man of few words, but he always feels better.

Right, so one of the most magical things that happened is you have something that you offer that many, I don't know that there's another practice like it, where you offer a group treatment. And so we would be in the waiting room with all of these families who wanted to be treated together and we, the community that we built together, and now that you describe qi, that's what's flowing between all of us, right? That’s a power there.

Ruth: That's the perfect example of it.

Audra: This is how our work together was born. The MaxLove Project was born first as a service project, a way to give back and to build community, and seeing the power of what you are doing and combining that with our other BE SUPER action points that we developed, especially our work on nutrition. We just knew that we had to work together. The Ohana Project was born, we opened an office together in Orange, California, and the work continues. I know we have some really big dreams together too, but this is how... This is how we met, and I do believe that we're connected at such a deep level, and we're so grateful for you, Ruth.

Ruth: It’s likewise. I think one of the greatest losses of this pandemic with COVID is... Well, besides all the lives and the trauma, but I can't do community acupuncture in my waiting room because it's not safe. And I see the loss of that flow between the families, it's heartbreaking, it's heartbreaking. And I just pray and can't wait for the day that we can do that again.

Audra: So deeply therapeutic, empowering, powerful. I hear from all of the families is just, it's a huge hole in all of our lives. I think you're right, this is like a big part of the fallout from COVID, and as we come back into it, I know that it's a thing that we won't be taking for granted, for sure.

Ruth: That, that's my favorite part of my practice is how busy and beautiful my waiting room gets and the interaction between the kids and the parents, and the parents with other kids and... Oh my gosh. And the grandparents... And it's a beautiful, beautiful thing.

Audra: What you've created is a space for healing, and so as you're like physically and energetically working on that flow and really helping the flow of qi, I think, can’t this sort of thing happen everywhere, anywhere?

Ruth: Of course it can.

Audra: Every hospital...

Ruth: Of course it can.

Audra: …waiting room? We just don't think like that. So it's one thing that I love about what you do and the effect that you have, bringing your work into the hospital, is that it starts to seep in maybe more slowly than you and I would want... You've been doing this for a really long time. But what are some of the effects of your practice that you've seen change maybe some of the little things in the hospital, even interactions or things with associates and clinicians?

Ruth: I think to begin with, I started out one patient at a time. I told this story, I think I told this story to a parent yesterday, which I tell the story a lot because I'm asked, how did this start? Right. How did this start? And it started, I was treating a neurofibromatosis type II, which is benign tumors in your central nervous system or brain and spine.

And this young man, I think he was 12 when he started, Bill... Dr. Loudon did probably over 50 surgeries on his brain and spine, right. And he would have a pretty good quality of life after, but he would have intractable nausea and vomiting after surgery, not one cocktail, many, many drugs would touch it. Horrible. It would be horrible.

He was just constantly on IV fluids, it was so painful to watch, and I had been treating him out-patient, did not have in-patient privileges yet, and I went to round with Dr. Loudon on a Saturday afternoon, just to round in the hospital too, 'cause I knew he was in the hospital, he was a very beloved San Clemente hometown, local boy. And God bless Dr. Gary Goodman, who was the intensivist on that day. His kids, knew Taylor, it was just a very energetically connected group.
And Dr. Loudon looked at Dr. Goodman and said, “Give her temporary privileges,” as poor Taylor is just puking his brains out bedside and his parents feel so helpless to help him.

And Dr. Goodman said, “Okay.” And had him within hours, and that's how it started, and of course within 15 minutes of getting acupuncture, his nausea and vomiting stopped. That’s one of the truly miraculous effects of treatment, and it's so beautiful. And after I had temporary privileges, they started feeding me, “Can you help this, can you help that?” It was like I wasn't getting paid, but I was getting the opportunity to treat these kids in the hospital, and that started the path on getting permanent privileges, which was over a year process of going to medical executive committees.

And the first question they asked me, I'm like, I'm so nervous and I’ve prepared. And the first question they asked me is “Do you use sterile needles?” and I just like...

Audra: No, I use dirty ones. I just have one needle that I use for everybody.

Ruth: The education process of, we’re certified in clean needle technique and the entry-level degree to practice Chinese medicine at that time was a mass of four-years Masters. And then people go like, they just didn't know, it was ignorance.

Audra: Right.

Ruth: And the process after, through education, oh my gosh, was they were really happy to have me there. They were really happy to be able to offer this to patients.

Audra: And how many years has it been now?

Ruth: That was in 2002—well, it was 2001, and it took a year to get permanent privileges in 2002.

Audra: It's incredible. And how many folks do you have practicing with you at the hospital now?

Ruth: We now have... There's three credential practitioners. I'm having two more credentialed as we speak, they're in the process of getting their privileges. And then we have the internship program with Southern California Health Science Universities where I have doctoral students come in and intern with me and round and treat patients. That program is really great because practitioners are getting the opportunity to treat critical care, to treat NICU, to treat these types of patients you'd never see outpatient.

Audra: Right, right. And so it's from the NICU to the PICU, really? All the way through.

Ruth: All the way through.

Audra: It's incredible, and then you have the clinics where you can, where you can see these patients when they're home.

Ruth: Right. Continuity of care.

Audra: Oh it's beautiful. Beautiful, Ruth. That makes me think, we've talked about this incredible journey you've had.

Ruth: But let me go back to that last point. The point was, it was one patient at a time, that's how it's started, right? And that's how anything that lasts or anything of significance, it's just that one step that leads to the next step, and we have, all three of us, right? We have these giant aspirations, but we're gonna do it one step at a time.

Justin: So Ruth, now I wanna go back to the first step for you. How did this all begin where you knew you wanted to become a healer, and then acupuncture was gonna be your modality?

Ruth: So I've had some, still have, amazing mentors in my life of women healers. I think the most prominent being my mom, who was a nurse and a healer. And I was thinking about this, my great-grandmother was a sound healer.

Audra: Oh, really?

Ruth: And she was an herbalist and…

Justin: Wow.

Ruth: When my great-grandma was, when she came to live with us, I grew up in a multi-generational family, both my great-grandmas lived with us at one point, my grandma lived with us at one point, which I think we miss a lot in our culture from not having multi-generational families, because I got to see and benefit from their wisdom.

But my great-grandmother was, she lived such a sparse life, she was so ahead of her time, she recycled everything, she had her Bible, her little, she would make little vials of healing tinctures and then she would do this really beautiful sound healing, which I'm so sorry she did not give to me, but she kinda had dementia by the time she came to live with us. And she would just walk around and over you, she'd made these little “hrrrr, hrrr…”

My mom said when she was young, she would take my mom out into the country, they lived like rural country, she would take my mom when she was a child out into the country and go to these farms where there were no doctors, and with her little tinctures and do sound healing over them. Fascinating.

Justin: Wow, so this is like indigenous European, ancient European, folk healing.

Ruth: Folk healing at its finest. And then my mom took a more traditional route, and she was a nurse. She did a lot of home health care off the clock, she worked in a hospital. My mom was a very accomplished nurse, ran a hospital, worked in all kinds of units, but she was always doing, well, you have to go back to the basis like, I am a child of God in service, right. And that's how my mom raised me. We live our life in service to our creator, and we do it through helping others in healing.

So she was constantly taking me out into the... I never knew where we were going when I was a kid. She took me to Long View Asylum on the weekends. This is like a mental... It's a mental hospital. It's an asylum. It was the scariest place. And I was young enough for... I don't even know what we did there, but she would carry me in, so I was young enough to be carried.

And it was a scary place. She had to go through opening the locked gates, and I remember the attendants, they would cut cigarettes up into little pieces and they'd be allowed to smoke a cigarette like that big. And they were constantly wanting to touch me 'cause I was like, this child, right, and this was such a dark, scary place, but I don't even know what my mom did there. She did some kind of healing, nursing, something there.

Justin: Okay, I just have to ask about this story, Ruth. Can you remember how you felt?

Ruth: I was terrified. But my mom constantly, that was part of our, my training as to be in service, because you're in service to all mankind.

Audra: Right, right.

Ruth: That was my mom would... What I do remember, my mom would go in and the most wretched humans in this place... And they were wretched. Oh my god, mental, state mental hospitals back then, they probably... I don't even know if we have them anymore, so wretched, she would wash feet. She would go in and wash feet of the most wretched of wretched, poor people, completely out of their minds, and administer love and care to them. That's my earliest like memories.

Audra: And you're right. She did give that to you, right? And it's not just showing you all the beautiful things, it's inviting you into all of it.

Ruth: I can, from doing stuff like that, I can walk... I am confident to walk into this precarious situations.

Justin: Right, that's what I was thinking, that here you have this, this spiritual act of grace at the same time you're experiencing terror. And to like, to hold these two things together is amazing.

Ruth: I had this blonde like crazy hair when I was little, and I just remember them, the patients and their fingernails were so dirty and they weren’t... It was a scary place, but they all wanted to touch my hair, touch me…

Justin: Oh my gosh.

Audra: I can just imagine the light you brought in there.

Ruth: It was a great, that was the beginning, I was probably three or four years old then. It was great training.

And then when I was in elementary school, my mom, this is where I got my real start, my mom was the Director of Nursing at the Beachwood Home of the Incurable and Beachwood Home, it was like a nursing home. But in the turn of the century, if your child was born with developmental delays or cerebral palsy, or if your child contracted polio, you were institutionalized. You didn't get to bring your kid home, that was like, in our culture, it’s crazy, right? In other cultures, they don't do that, your child was put in an institution.

So this wealthy Procter and Gamble in Cincinnati, Procter and Gamble family, had a daughter with CP, with cerebral palsy, and they built the Beachwood Home for the Incurable. It was a beautiful, old type, marble floored mansion that they built this place to give their child a home.

So they started this home for these kids, as these kids grew up, it turned into a nursing home for geriatrics, and by the time my mom was the director of this place, it was all geriatric patients, but some of them had lived there since they were little kids. And I would go there every day after school, that's where I hung out, and all of these patients were my friends, like I would go and sit, the stories were fascinating, amazing stories that, um.

One of my best friends was Charlotte, who, she was in her 60s or 70s, no, she was older than that. Her 80s at the time, but she had contracted polio as a child, and her legs did not grow, she had... She was like a little doll, and she was in this big wheel chair, but she was an adult, and when she was, I think 19... This was way back in the early 1900s—when she was 19, he fell in love with an orderly, and if you were handicapped, you could not get married...You cannot get married. You could not have children. You were institutionalized.

So, she told me the story so many times, so this orderly, got a basket and rigged a rope, and he was going to lower her from the second story of the Beachwood Home for the Incurable and they were gonna run away together. And they got caught.

Audra: Oh my god.

Ruth: And he was fired and she never saw him again. And she had a picture of him by her bed.

Audra: Oh, heartbreaking.

Ruth: Oh my god, it was... I heard so many stories like that, they're truly beautiful. Oh gosh. So they grew up institutionalized, these kids, and I have found that I think I treat a lot of special needs kids in my practice, and I'm sure that's where I got my start. I love treating special needs kids, they're just such beautiful, light, joyous souls.

But another thing that happened to me there, because it was a nursing home, a geriatric, is that's where I got my start in end of-life care. And I would know who was on their way out and I would... I just knew, and I would sit, sometimes I'd sit... They had these really high beds, I think, 'cause it made it easier for the staff, but when I was little, I could sit under their beds. So when patients were dying, oftentimes either it was to stay out of the way, I don't know why, but I'd sit under their beds with them, or I'd sit with them until they left.

And it was, the one thing I want to tell, there are so many things to talk about end-of-life care, but the one thing I want your listeners to know is that adults and children from doing end-of-life care at CHOC and in my practice, they do not leave unprepared. They do not leave unprepared, they are visited and prepared, and it can be so difficult and heartbreaking, but where, you don't leave alone and you don't leave unprepared.

Justin: Ruth, I’m having a realization that we need to schedule another interview just to talk about end-of-life care.

Ruth: There’s a lot to talk about.

Justin: This is such a great topic. It might strike listeners to The Family Thrive like, “Hey, this is a little dark,” but every family is dealing with end-of-life care.

Ruth: We’re all gonna die.

Justin: …It's gonna touch everybody. And so this podcast is not just about the happy, great parts of family life, which of course it is, but it's also gonna be about these painful parts of the journey that people like you know a lot about. And we would really love to really open up and have a lot of time with this.

Audra: Yeah, I'm really interested just for a moment, as we keep continuing in your journey, learning about your journey, Ruth, to know as... So as a child and a young person, you are... It sounds like you were just attuned to the transition. And you just... You just knew.

Ruth: It wasn't something I learned, definitely. It was just something that I was aware of from my earliest, earliest, earliest memories.

Audra: And you were not scared. You wanted to be with people.

Ruth: No, I was never scared. I don't know, maybe my mom carried me into the mental asylum...

Audra: It's so powerful, Ruth, and we need more of you and your voice and your perspective to help us have these conversations and normalize what is the most normal aspect of humanity that we haven't normalized, you know.

Ruth: And we've so avoided it in our culture. It's horrible how we've avoided it. It's horrible. We all suffer because of it.

Audra: So much. So much, and then we avoid that suffering.

Ruth: And then we get sick.

Audra: But it's beautiful. So you transition with people, you chose to be there with people as they’re transitioning, and you've done that ever since.

Ruth: Ever since. My whole life. Yes, and I think the path that I've been following with my practice and in the hospital has allowed me to do more of that, and I'm so grateful. I'm so grateful. It's some of the most beautiful, amazing. It's the point of your whole life are those moments when you make that transition. Truly, truly.

Audra: So you grew up in this, imagine this, maternal line of matriarch healers.

Ruth: True.

Audra: And I could see them almost as you're describing this journey, and you end up in San Diego, California as an art major.

Ruth: Yes. So, I have to be honest about this. I grew up in Ohio. I really did not enjoy the Midwest because I like to be outside all the time. I found great joy and comfort in nature, and it's hard to do that when it's either too hot and humid to be outside or too cold to be outside.

Audra: Right, right.

Ruth: So I, from a really early age, my mom told me before I was five, I started telling her I'm moving to California. And she was like, “What? Yeah, whatever. ” I had never been here, I had never been here before I moved here.

Audra: You just knew.

Ruth: So I moved to California, and when I got here, I was like, “Are you kidding me? People have lived like this the whole time and I didn't know.” I picked my college, I went to UCSD, University of California, San Diego, but I picked my college solely on its location.

Audra: And art.

Justin: And the ocean and you’ve never left.

Ruth: I was pursuing art. And it had a great art program, but it was mostly because of where it was located.

Audra: You know what, one thing that was really interesting that we had a podcast with earlier, our wonderful friend and contributor to The Family Thrive, Jenny Walters, and she is also a healer. She's a therapist, psychologist who was a fine art photographer, and she described, Justin, do you remember how she said that she described how therapy and doing art made her feel the same way because it was in touch with the same thing. It was in touch with the same healing, it was in touch with, there's some sort of…

Justin: Some energetic flow.

Audra: It was energetic. She was like, once I got that, I saw... So was there a relationship for you between that art creative, artistic process for you?

Ruth: Absolutely. I mean, art is an expression of your soul. And your soul is every aspect, your mental, spiritual, physical... Every aspect. In the art I did, I did collective pieces and sculpture, I was a dumpster diver in college. I was like... I think it goes back to my great-grandmother, the recycler way before her time, found a use for every single thing, but I was constantly rescuing things and trying to make something beautiful out of it, and it does... It touches your soul. That's why art... And Chinese medicine is an art. So many Chinese medicine practitioners have previous art histories.

Justin: Well, that makes sense. Yeah.

Audra: Yeah, it's really cool. So, then you became an acupuncturist. You found your way.

Ruth: My path, it's so long and varied. I moved to California, went to UCSD, and while I was in college, I became a first responder and beach lifeguard. Which was another way to be able to sit outside and such a gift to watch the sun traverse the sky and all the things that happened in nature, and it was part of my service, I was serving people, keeping people safe. The first responder aspect, I was really interested in healthcare. It served that need.

Because it was kind of a seasonal job, that meant that I had months when it wasn't the season to travel and surf. So I was living the endless summer traveling all over the world, surfing, immersing myself in different cultures, learning about their art and their healing practices. It was... And honestly, I would have done it forever.

Audra: What changed?

Ruth: I had... Well, I think God was giving me little nudges saying, you can't do the endless summer thing forever, and I didn't listen. So I went from being a very fit, high trained person using my physical abilities to perform my job, to breaking my neck and laying in bed for, in chronic pain for months, a year.

Audra: Did you break your neck surfing?

Ruth: No, it was an accident. But having my whole... So much of my identity was wrapped up in my physical abilities, and all of a sudden I had none. So I had to do a lot of soul searching, dealing with heavy, heavy... It's hard. Depression, when you can't... Chronic pain is horrible. But that experience, when a person walks into my clinic or I am consulted on a person in terrible pain or chronic pain, I know that look in their eye.

Justin: You know.

Ruth: I have great empathy for that. So I sought out alternative medicine because Western medicine had nothing to offer me once my structural, my bones were healed, I had terrible soft tissue injury. And that just wasn't healing. And Western medicine doesn't have a lot to offer for that chronic condition. Ao I sought out acupuncture, I sought out Chinese medicine, helped me so much within three months of getting my first treatment, I was enrolling in graduate school to become a Chinese medicine practitioner.

Justin: Wow. Wow. Oh, what I'm hearing here is a connection to something that we've talked about earlier, not on this podcast, but in the past, your definition for thriving, you told me was moving through life without obstruction. And so this point in your life, you broke your neck, total chronic pain, feels like a huge obstruction. What's striking me right now is that that obstruction led to something really beautiful.

Ruth: I think I'm hard-headed, I don't know.

Justin: Well, can you talk more about your definition of thriving?

Ruth: Yeah, thriving when I... And that's gonna go back to staying in the flow. When I said moving through life without obstruction, that doesn't mean life without challenges, because that's a guarantee. Every day it’s a guarantee, there are going to be challenges and obstructions that the secret to that is staying in the flow, and for me, it's staying connected to spirit and service. And when you are giving your life to others, and that's the point of your movement then it doesn't matter what life throws in your way.

'Cause, this is for me, if I stay on the path of service and I stay giving my life to God, then I know it doesn't, I know I'm on the right path, no matter what gets thrown my way. That's kind of the deeper meaning of that for me, yeah.

Audra: So Ruth, you spent time in China after graduate school?

Ruth: I did. Yes.

Audra: And can you tell us some of these experiences when it comes to flow, when it comes to that definition of thriving. Did you have any experience with some of these ways of looking at life and existence in Chinese culture in a different way than presents here?

Ruth: So China, my experience in China was one of great contradiction. I thought I was so excited to go and the medicine was beautiful, wonderful. It was a great experience as far as the medicine. Living in a very communist country where people are constantly in fear of the government, constant, it’s not like it is now. So that part was... It was hard for me. Quality of life for people in China when I was there was really difficult. It was so difficult. There was the... A culture that is so old, you’d think that they would have waste management down. But they don’t.

Audra: No.

Ruth: Oh, it's horrible. I just couldn't believe that. How you guys understand Chinese medicine, the flow and obstruction, and so I just... They didn't put a lot of value on people, which was hard for me. People treating each other like family units, I never saw an elderly person come to a doctor's appointment by themselves.

Elderly were revered there, even if there were no elevators in the Chinese medicine hospital, so you had to take the stairs. And if an elderly person came, I saw elderly people come in wheelbarrows wrapped in beautifully homemade silk quilts and then the family members would carry the wheelbarrow up the stairs. It was just like so many contradictions in China.

But one of the most beautiful things I saw was how Chinese medicine was used in the family unit with cooking of these medicinal herbs and practices like moxibustion and Tui Na, and gua sha was used at home preventatively, that was a really beautiful thing. But man, it was hard watching how little value was put on life there from the government’s standpoint.

Audra: So dynamic, and it sounds like such a deep resistance in the communist regime to the culture.

Ruth: Yes.

Audra: And to the history of China, it was like...

Ruth: It was shocking to me. I came home so thankful for public restrooms and plumbing, and I've been all over the world. I'm not like a faint of heart traveler, but I think the massive humanity there also was shocking to me, just how many people... And I rode my bike, I got a bike and would ride to the hospital every day. I was the only person wearing a bike helmet, nobody wears a, millions of bikers. There are so many head injuries in China. I would go the same... Right, the same route to the hospital every day and people would point out at me and go “Big head, big head!”

Justin: So Ruth, I wanna shift gears real quick, so you've said in the past that if you have one self-care piece of advice for parents that it would be “Breathe.” And I know you’ve... I think you've told us this in the past too, I think I actually remember you telling me this in 2011 when I brought Max in for the first time, like “Dad, breathe.” So can you tell more about, is it a special type of breathing... What... Can you talk more about this piece of advice?

Ruth: So we're gonna get back to that word of practice again, and self-care. Part of my daily practice is Kriya yoga, which is a breath technique, to develop a closer relationship with God. That's the basis of it.

Now, what goes along with doing breathing techniques, there are many types of breathing techniques, Kriya is just the one that I practice. But it brings you, besides all the physiological benefits that happens to your body, it brings you into the present to breathe, right?

And if you are being present and not stressing out about what could be or what has been and staying present, that's what I think what breathing really does, is that your anxiety level would go down and you will put yourself back into that flow with spirit. So my practice, I have a pretty... And what you were talking about the beginning, Justin, when if I fall out of my practice, man, I know I'm gonna pay. It's not like, it's not like I have to do this, it's like, if I don't do this, what will happen?

So my practice involves, I do a good hour of meditation every morning and breathing techniques, and that includes just being quiet and sitting with God, and then I do a lot of dialogue with God.

Justin: Is there any special or is there any quick breathing practice that you can give parents? Like if things are really intense, is there just a quick method?

Ruth: Yes, if you count your breaths in. If you just do, count the time of taking a breath in for five seconds, hold it for five seconds and exhale it for five seconds. If you do that 10 times, your whole physiological make-up will be different, your mind... It will be so different just doing that.

Audra: Ruth, I love that. I think it's a really beautiful, tangible first step, baby step, but also just a daily thing to incorporate in one's life. Right, that's something that you can take a second to do. You can set your watch, you can set up some reminders to do something like that throughout the day. I wanted to ask you, this isn't just advice you give, you give parents through your practice and that you practice yourself, but you're also a mom. And we haven't talked about... We haven't talked about that yet.

We absolutely love your beautiful son, Jesse who is now a full grown man. It’s amazing. And of course, you and Dr. Loudon share a family. Do you impart any of this on your kids, is this something that these practices... Do you share these practices with them?

Ruth: Yes, actually, I just want us, being a mom, best thing ever, best, best, best, best thing I've ever done. Heather, you know Heather, one of our practitioners, just had a baby.

Audra: Oh Heather had her baby, congrats!

Ruth: She had a boy, so beautiful, and it's just the best thing you can do, just... Gosh. It's the best gift from God ever. Children, but all of our kids, we have four kids between us, all of our kids always wanted Chinese medicine but nobody went that path, so I'm hoping, I became a grandma this year, this past year for the second generation. But yeah, they all... Jesse's a meditator, he’s really about good food and healthy lifestyle, and Elliot, the oldest son is a firefighter, Emily's a nurse, his wife, we've... I think we've imparted the idea of service onto our kids.

Audra: Absolutely.

Ruth: I think I had more influence on Jesse that Jesse's really taken the ‘be still’ concept and run with it, and he has a practice. Definitely.

Audra: How is that... Is that for you with... I can imagine a parent listening to this thinking, “Okay, how do I get started?” Was it... Is it modeling the way... Did you have open conversations? Did you do it together? How did this start for Jesse?

Ruth: From day one, of course. I asked, it was funny, I asked Bill and Jesse, your last questions that you put your MaxLove questions, about your quotes. And Jesse was... I raised Jesse, as my mom raised me, with a lot of Ralph Waldo Emerson. And Jesse's quote was a Ralph Waldo Emerson quote  that I wrote above his bed. I think when he was in, when school was getting kinda hard, maybe like sixth, seventh, eighth grade I wrote... “Discontent is the want of self-reliance” above his bed on the wall, and that was the quote he gave me. “Like of course Mom, that one.

Audra: Of course. That's awesome.

Justin: It starts early.

Ruth: Well, you have to start it early, 'cause those practices, man, it takes a long time to... I tried to get him to start breathing and meditating way earlier than he really embraced it. It takes a long time to find your way, but I just wanted him to be aware it was there.

Justin: Yeah, and just patience.

Ruth: Yeah you have to take those steps and figure it out, that's part of the life. But as an adult, you wanna tell your kids, but you can bypass so much angst.

Justin: Well the research, the research shows that parents, when parents eat healthier, their kids are more... Or when parents eat whole foods, their kids are more likely to eat whole foods later in life, and same with exercising. So I imagine there's gotta be something with meditation and breathing and these practices as well, that you don't need to force it on them, but if they see that it's a regular part of your life, that it will eventually start to weave itself into their life.

Ruth: And that has panned out. He's a daily meditator. And he says the same thing, “Oh, man life gets too hard if I don't do it.”

Audra: That's really powerful, Ruth. It makes me think that for parents who are looking to find that first place to start, that the breathing technique that you talked about, the five seconds or the box breathing technique is a great place to start and when potentially when something blows up with your child, like let's say you're in a moment, everyone's having a moment, the big feelings are coming out. One of the things that we can do is, “Hey, let's just breathe together for a minute. Can we do that?”

Ruth: So powerful, so powerful. And there are so many apps and ways now that it's so accessible to everybody.

Justin: Yeah, and like... Well, so the consensus recommendation on exercise amongst researchers and physicians who are into this is that just find the exercise type that you like, just find what you like and do that. And I think because we have, now have so many different meditation apps and approaches, I think the same thing could be said for that. Find the one that you like. Find the way that it works for you.

Ruth: Absolutely, there's not just one way to do anything. Oh my gosh. We're also different as human beings, you know?

Audra: Yeah, Ruth, how did you connect with... Okay, so you told us that your most important self-care practice is meditation, we talked about breathing, we talked about your breathing practice and a bit about your meditation practice… Can you tell us how you connected with your meditation practice and what does it look like for you? How did you learn it?

Ruth: I do Kriya yoga, that's part of the Self-Realization Fellowship, and I think living in... I lived in Encinitas and Del Mar, where they have a center there that they teach it. So it was local, and it just called to me. I was just very, very comfortable there. It's not a religion. It is, they teach a practice to develop your own relationship with God and that just... That spoke to me.

Audra: Yeah, in your family. Do you find that, that... I know your husband meditates as well. We know…

Ruth: He does.

Audra: Dr. Loudon, very well. He's very dear to us also, and he's very open about his meditation practice, does he... Does he follow a similar practice or do something else call to him?

Ruth: He started doing TM when he was younger, and then last year, he started in doing the Kriya techniques. So we do Kriya together, it's a really nice way, we try to end the day. This year, I have time to do it sometimes, like my main practice is in the morning, first thing when I get up, and then we do... Not always at the end of the day.

But what I've been doing with Dr. Loudon now, I think his schedule has changed a little bit so I can throw this in. So at the end of the day, we're doing down dog, so we're doing more yoga, physical yoga, and then that always... I found if I can get him to do that. So I do my... I do an hour of that when I get home from work every day, and he always gets home later than me. So then I tack on to 20 minutes for him and help him, and then we're in a much better position to sit down and meditate.

Audra: That is awesome, that resonates with me as a physicality kind of first like I have found that doing stretching, you call it yoga or stretching, and then breathing, and then in terms of a practice for me has been really helpful.

Ruth: It's really hard after a day of work to just come and sit down and be quiet, you have to do something to let go of all that stuff. And stretching has been really positive for both of us like that.

Justin: So Ruth, you alluded to these final questions that we have, and so these are three questions that we ask every podcast guest, and I love the fact that you ask these to Bill and Jesse as well. So if you wanna share their answers, we would...we'd love to hear it, but let's start... Let's start with the first one. So, Ruth, if you could put a big post-it note on every parent's fridge tomorrow morning, what would it say?

Ruth: So mine, it would say “Love God.” That would be mine. I asked my husband this morning as he was leaving, and he said, “Hug your kids.”

Justin: Oh my gosh. Coming from him, he knows what's behind that too. Yeah, there's a lot of depth there.

Ruth: And the one from Jesse, I felt like, oh, I succeeded in some way, Jesse was “Pack your kids a healthy lunch.”

Justin: Right on the fridge. Perfect.

Ruth: I thought it was funny.

Audra: Oh, that's awesome. So we talked about the quote a little bit, we talked about Jesse's quote, what is the last quote that changed the way you think or feel?

Ruth: Oh, it was so powerful, and I'm going to use the sweet dear Amanda Gorman. Oh my gosh.

Audra: Isn’t she so powerful. Isn’t she?

Ruth: Yeah, so powerful. “For it’s our grief that gives us our gratitude, shows us how to find hope if we ever lose it, to ensure that this ache wasn't endured in vain, do not ignore the pain, give it purpose. Use it.”

Audra: Yes, yes, yes.

Justin: Love that.

Ruth: She is so young. Gosh, all the beautiful stuff that we'll get from her.

Audra: Everything. I'm voting for her. I’m on the campaign team.

Justin: She's not running. But you're voting.

Audra: She said she will.

Justin: Oh, cool. Me too. So our final question is really just the context of it, is that when you're in the thick of parenting and it's just the daily grind and everything's going on, it's so easy just to sit back and be like, “Oh my god, kids, they're driving me crazy.” But we want to just end this by celebrating kids because kids are amazing, and so what is your favorite thing about kids?

Ruth: Their joy. Kids are so joyful, even in the worst of the worst. They will find some little thing to be joy about. It’s just so, so connected, they're still so connected to the source… I think we forget it as adults.

Justin: I love that. So all of the things that we do to protect ourselves from pain: all the avoidance and the distractions are also keeping us from the joy, and that’s what the kids don't have as all those avoidant coping walls built up yet.

Ruth: They'll be so honest about how terrible something can be, and then in the next second, be so joyous about how something can be.

Justin: Oh, there's wisdom there right? It's like, you gotta take the pain and the joy, the grief and the love. It's all there together.

Ruth: Exactly.

Audra: You know what Ruth? It really strikes me. I've learned so much about this in the childhood cancer journey with Max and with all of the other families we've walked with, and along the same lines always inspires me how the kids keep us going, 'cause all they want to do is just to do them.

Ruth: That’s true. I wanna share this.

Audra: Yes, yes.

Ruth: Because when we were talking about not having my waiting room going, right. I have a busy clinic. I have five or six treatment rooms and my waiting room going at the same time. And once we went into COVID and opened back up, and I didn't have a waiting room, in the middle of my day I was like, “Why am I so tired? Like do I have something wrong with me?” And I realized I wasn't like that qi that I get from an over packed waiting room wasn't there. It was a big adjustment for me.

Audra: The waiting room qi. Now, it's a beautiful, beautiful thing to point out, and in the family unit, we talk a lot about how we need to care for the whole family, and I think parents being aware of qi and kind of their own energetic flow or lack thereof, and how we can be impacting our kids, but also recognizing how our kids are positively and powerfully impacting us with that energy.

Ruth: So true, so true. Oh, gosh I should just see a happy kid. Just see a happy kid and I'm like...

Audra: Right. Have you seen, I think it was a news article on these nursing homes, and was it in Canada? That are combining orphanages and nursing homes.

Ruth: Oh that is such a great idea.

Justin: That’s brilliant.

Ruth: Yeah, I saw that where they were having... Pairing them up being buddies... That's such a great idea.

Audra: That’s, talk about the beautiful life force energy there, right? The bookends that we used to have in multi-generational homes like yours, Ruth. You know, that used to be the way.

Ruth: As it should be.

Audra: Yes, and so finding other ways to make it the way. Yeah, like your waiting room or like a way of organizing living like that. Justin's aunt actually runs an orphanage in Mexico, and what they do is they pull folks together in family units, so they actually have like... The kids aren’t just all housed in a dormitory together. They pull together these little homes that are multi-generational homes.

Ruth: So great.

Audra: Super cool.

Ruth: You lose out on so much wisdom not doing that.

Justin: So Ruth, before we go, if anyone is in, lives in Southern California and they want to access your practice and your skills, how can they get ahold of you?

Ruth: You can go online and search Open Mind Modalities. Our website is ommacupuncture.com. And you can find all the information of our clinics there.

Justin: Beautiful.

Audra: Two clinics in Orange County.

Ruth: Yes!

Audra: And if you're interested in pediatric healthcare, hospital care where there is acupuncture integrated into the system, take a look at Children's Hospital of Orange County.

Ruth: True.

Justin: Awesome.

Ruth: I miss you both so much!

Audra: We miss you, Ruth.

Justin: The feeling is mutual. Hey, thanks for listening to The Family Thrive podcast. If you like what you heard, please subscribe, tell two friends and head on over to Apple Podcasts, or anywhere you listen to podcasts, and give us a review. We're so grateful you've chosen to join us on this Family Thrive journey.

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Condimentum eu tortor bibendum.

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Condimentum eu tortor bibendum.

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