This is the first in a series of interviews of interesting people living and working in San Francisco. I will be interviewing artists, acupuncturists / healers, baristas, small business owners, and others that make up the patchwork quilt of people that is San Francisco.
I first came to see Monet at Remedy Acupuncture on the recommendation of a friend who had been to her many times. I instantly could tell Monet was a talented healer with an intuitive touch. I had never had acupuncture before, so sticking needles in me in the hope that it would make my mind and body more relaxed was a small leap of faith. I’ve noticed with acupuncture a certain sort of change of energy levels that occurs on a more sustained basis than say getting a massage. As well, her holistic approach weaves in small amounts of massage, and herbal & diet consultation. If you having been thinking about getting poked, but putting it off for a while now, I recommend you reach out to Monet.
Missionhipsters blog: You have a background in dance, correct? How do you feel your background as a dancer had lead to your interest as a healer?
Monet Sexauer: Yes! I have been involved in dance my entire life, beginning with ballet, modern, some traditional dance forms, and aerial dance. Being a dancer is closely linked to my interest in the body. From a young age, I developed an ability to feel and express subtleties of movement and energy in my body. More than just about anything in my life, I love the way I can get sucked into a zone and lose myself with dance. When choosing my career path, I wanted something that helped others to have this experience of really inhabiting their own body. And, my experience with dance gives me a visceral relationship for a lot of the concepts in Chinese medicine. For example: understanding where energy tends to gather and become blocked on a channel, what it feels like at the end of a long day when energy is deplete in one area, but rising in another.
Being a dancer has also given me a practice as an artist. This gives me a medium for connecting to my own emotions and helps me look at the world through a broader lens. In the context of working as an acupuncturist and as a doula, it helps me connect with the variety of patients and the various experiences they may be having.
MH: How did you first come to discover acupuncture and what led you becoming an acupuncturist?
MS: Both of my grandmothers and my father died of cancer when I was a teenager. I wanted to find a way to understand it all and believed that there had to be more we could do for treatment and prevention. I started studying nutrition, lifestyle factors, and supplements. I majored in Biomedical Sciences in college to become a doctor or a naturopath. At this time, I was having my own health challenges: headaches and low-grade nausea. After a year of blood tests and doctor’s visits, acupuncture and herbs resolved it in under a month. I was hooked, and I loved the fact that this medicine uses a completely different set of logic based on nature metaphors that I could layer on my understanding of the logic of the western sciences.
MH: What are the common reasons people come in for acupuncture?
MS: People come in for all kinds of things! Because my private practice is in the financial district, I see a lot of professionals with desk jobs who suffer from stress, anxiety, and insomnia. They also tend to have pain in the wrists, elbows, and shoulders from sitting at a desk and working at a computer all day. I call the complex of symptoms ‘Silicon Valley Syndrome’. I also work at Pacific Fertility Center and treat people wanting to conceive who use acupuncture to balance their endocrine system and support pregnancy. I consider my specialties to be orthopedics, emotional issues, and reproductive health.
MH: What can people expect in their first acupuncture session?
MS: When a new patient comes through the door, I spend about 20-30 minutes going through their health history and their concerns and goals for treatment. I look at their tongue, take their pulse, and observe things about them such as their skin coloring and their posture to get a sense for what is going on beneath the surface. Based on what we discover together, I design a treatment and create a plan for addressing their concerns that may include herbs and supplements as well as acupuncture. The acupuncture itself is performed with single-use, disposable, needles that are almost as thin as a hair. I insert the needles into strategic places along the channels to open up areas of blockage and nourish areas of deficiency. Most people report that they experience a sense of relaxation and well-being. Some describe it as a ‘floating’ sensation or akin to the endorphin rush after a good yoga class. I think of it as entering into the ‘hypnagogic state’ – the state between sleep and awake where the body heals itself and the mind is able to relax and move more freely.
MH: What is Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and why does it go hand-in-hand with acupuncture?
MS: The term Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) has its roots in The People’s Republic of China in the 1950s. It describes a range medical practices developed throughout thousands of years in the region of modern China. The practices share a basic set of philosophies rooted in Yin/yang theory, Five-Elements, Taoism, Zang-Fu, etc. Acupuncture, Herbs, Guasha, cupping, and moxibustion are the main techniques used to balance the patterns found in diseases in the human body. Most schools in China and the US teach a relatively standardized version of the medicine. However, the term TCM is broad in scope and there may be a great difference in styles and technique used from one doctor to another.
MH: Tell me about moving your practice from Santa Cruz to San Francisco. Do you find San Franciscans to be different? or What do you like about San Francisco/San Franciscans?
MS: I have been slowly moving my practice from Santa Cruz over the last year. Now, with the exception of a few patients that I see once or twice a month in Santa Cruz, the majority of my patients see me at my office downtown SF. Overall, the patients are quite different. Both groups are relatively engaged with, and interested in their health. This makes my job easier because engaged and compliant patients have better results! In terms of differences, the patients in San Francisco tend to be more diverse, international, and ambitious. They often speak multiple languages, travel internationally for work, are actively involved with self-discovery and reinventing their work… and many seem to still find time for creative outlets! It’s a vibrant and inspiring environment.
MH: What else is going on for you?
MS: As you know, I work in my private practice at Remedy Acupuncture and I also work at Pacific Fertility Center (PFC) as an acupuncturist and herbalist. At PFC, I work side-by-side with western medicine and Assisted Reproductive Technologies. This includes giving acupuncture to women before and after an ‘In Vitro Fertilization’ procedure. In addition to working, I have just begun a PHD in TCM from Five Branches University in San Jose. This will facilitate me publishing and producing research in the field of TCM to help other kinds of doctors to make sense of the work and see the efficacy of what we do.
Also, from time-to-time, I take on a doula client. This means that I assist a woman through labor and childbirth. I provide techniques for pain reduction such as massage and hypnosis. It’s a real privilege and a challenge that I have been involved in off and on over the last 10 years. I’ve worked with a variety of women from inner-city Philadelphia to a birthing center in Bali. It’s a great metaphor for helping someone to rise above and deal with pain and transition of all sorts.
AND, I still dance! I teach aerial hammock at Sedusa Studios in San Jose and have just started taking Tango here in the city.