Although I am not easily led to anything, I finally let Alan take me to a Chinese doctor known for his special healing powers. This was almost 10 years ago while I was living in San Francisco and going through an especially tough time. I was desperate to find someone or something that could help.

Everyone thinks of San Francisco as this magical wonderful place – and for many it is. But for me, living there was turning into a nightmare on every level. I desperately missed my friends and family on the East Coast. Although I met people who were friendly enough, for the most part I just wasn’t finding that “aha!” feeling that comes in an instant on a New York subway. And I had a “dream” job that was forcing me to fight uphill every day against a man who was supposed to be my ally, but who instead was “making me eat nails” (as one of his staff smilingly confided in me.)

I was overwhelmed by the loneliness and by the constant struggle on the job. Even though I was hired because I understood the business requirements for the product we were promoting, my “ally” kept fighting me at every step. I’m consoled by the fact that the product eventually incorporated the changes I knew were needed, but constant conflict along with the intense homesickness took its toll on me. I was getting weaker and weaker and experiencing all kinds of new symptoms as a result of how stressed I was. I needed help.

One of the very best things about San Francisco was meeting my dear friend Alan, a brilliant man with an amazing spirit and a heart as big as life. Among other things – including showing me the serene beauty of China Beach and taking me hiking in the Marin Headlands and Pt. Reyes – he introduced me to Dr. Lee. In fact he drove me there and stayed with me, since Dr. Lee’s office was near Berkeley and Alan knew traveling had gotten hard for me on my weaker days.

Despite my fear of doctors of any kind, I liked Dr. Lee immediately. He had a warm smile and a bounce to his step. Dr. Lee grew up in China and was the son of herbalists. He had jars of special healing herbs in his waiting room and, after an acupuncture session, he’d hand me a small plastic bag with some herbal concoction that came with specific instructions on how to make it into tea. He also used ancient chi gong healing techniques which he was reputed to have mastered to a high degree.

Now all this was new to me. And I admit I approached it with more than a hint of skepticism. But since I was not well and the medical doctors I’d seen had no explanation or cure, I was open to almost anything at that point. But still wearing my skeptical hat, of course.

Dr. Lee helped me feel stronger (although it took moving back home to New York City before I fully healed) and I will always be grateful for that. But I mostly remember him for those surreal moments when he would hold my head in his hands, apply what I think were chi gong mental techniques, and look me in the eye as he said things like “the mind is a busy highway”. Like he could really see inside. And then he’d just smile knowingly and strongly recommended I take up meditation.

And despite the doubt that sits so close to my surface, the treatments seemed to be helping. I began to relax. Alan and I used to sit in my living room, each with our own pillow and meditate as the warm sun poured in through the bay window. It was the beginning of healing on many levels for me. And, just possibly, a layer of warm skepticism may very well have been left back there on one of those pillows.

One other thing Dr. Lee used to say that I’ll never forget: “It’s serious, but don’t take it serious.” He was right. Except for the grammar of course, which I always catch myself correcting. Hmmm…I guess a little more meditation wouldn’t hurt. The mind certainly is a busy highway.