I would say I am in a period of healing. I have gone through a lot of recent changes, including moving cities (to San Diego after a decade in NYC), changing careers, and losing close friends and family members.
 
My spirit craves peace. The intense change, growth, and stress exhausts my mind and body. I turn to what I love best—homemade comfort food, cuddling with my lover under blankets. But, sometimes, even that is not enough. I need something more.
 
I set aside a day to experience a new treatment, driving from San Diego to Santa Monica early Friday morning to visit Exhale Spa.
 
I love giving and receiving massages, but opted for a different service. Acupuncture has always fascinated me. As a child, my mother received acupuncture for chronic back pain. I don't love needles, but I'll try (almost) anything once. I have walked on fire, traveled alone throughout Australia, and eaten Filipino balut.
 
I also believe in Yin and Yang, which represents balancing universal forces found in seasons, food, and everyday life. I practice Yin/Yang balance by drinking Oolong and Pu-erh teas, learning basic Tai Chi, and cooking Chinese dishes in a wok.
 
Santa Monica’s Exhale Spa is walking distance from the Pacific Coast. Its entrance is next to the historical Fairmount Miramar Hotel and Bungalows. I was shown to the women’s changing room, where I put on a comfy white robe. I relaxed in a private room, sipping herbal tea, a heated pillow around my neck.
 
Laying on the massage bed, a bit nervous, I asked my therapist to explain Exhale Spa’s acupuncture. She told me that she would focus on my whole body. She noticed the difference in pulse between my left and right wrist. I found that fascinating. She began by placing micro-fine needles in my feet, explaining that they were the least sensitive part of the body. It did help me adjust to the prickling sensation.  She made her way up to my stomach, an area I had requested. By then I was pretty calm. She reached my shoulders. Soon, I was laying with needles in my forehead. I felt secure knowing that there was logic behind the placement of pins.
 
She introduced the second part of the treatment, vibrational therapy. Once all of the needles were in my body, from feet to forehead, she used tuning forks to vibrate them, beginning again at my feet. I began to feel something stronger- a spiritual and physical connection, as if I was being transported. The ringing sound of the tuning forks and the movement I felt in my body, was like floating and drowning at the same time. It was a heaviness and a lightness that left me feeling energized and stronger.
 
After completing the session, I was in a state similar, but better, than that great post-massage elation. I made my way to the women’s changing room, where I took a wet and dry steam, enjoying the experience’s reverb, before heading home.
 
~Vanessa Shields

2016