She’s a Licensed Acupuncturist, Chinese Medicine Practitioner, Professional Speaker & Reiki Master. Meet Crystal N. Cliff, Owner of Phoenix Moon Acupuncture & Apothecary
Q: For those in our audience not familiar with Phoenix Moon Acupuncture & Apothecary, can you tell us about it and why you chose this career path?
CC: Phoenix Moon Acupuncture & Apothecary is a medical practice blending Daoist Classical Chinese Medicine, Native American Shamanic Medicine and Ten Shen Tai (Shinpinden Okuden) Rei Ki Ryoho.
I received my Chinese Medicine, Chinese herbal medicine and acupuncture training via direct and indirect transmission from Master Jeffery C. Yuen, an 88th generation Daoist Master of the Yu Qing Huang Lao Pai (Jade Purity Yellow Emperor Lao Zi School) and a 26th generation Daoist Master of the Quan Zhen Long Men Pai (Complete Reality Dragon Gate School). Jeffery apprenticed in Classical Chinese Medicine and other Daoist arts from the age of 4 and for more than 20 years with his adopted grandfather, the late Daoist Master Yu Wen of the Yu Qing Huang Lao Pai sect from the Shang Qing tradition of Daoism. Jeffery was trained in Chinese herbal medicine by Master Gong Song-Liu, a eunuch for the last two emperors of the Qing Dynasty who apprenticed with the imperial medical physicians and was a friend of Master Yu Wen. This is my Chinese Medicine and Chinese herbal medicine lineage.
In 2010, I became a Reiki Master in Usui Reiki Ryoho lineage and in 2019 became a Master-Student under an 8th degree Rei Ki Master in the Ten Shen Tai (Shinpinden Okuden) Rei Ki Ryoho lineage of the Shinto Priests and Samurai Warriors of Ancient Japan.
My Native American Medicine and Shamanism path began through the lineage of my Great-Great-Great-Grandfather who was Tsalagi (Cherokee). In 2013, I began studying in the Lakota and Tsalagi traditions. In 2016, I began receiving personal healing from Shaman Robbie Otter Woman Standing Warren and received the calling in 2018 to begin Earth Medicine Studies with her. I completed those first level studies in the Ute and Tiwa traditions in May 2020. In 2013, I was gifted a sacred Native American Pipe (Chanupa). I received the calling to become a Sacred Pipe Carrier in 2014 and was initiated as a Sacred Pipe Carrier for The People in 2019 by Robbie with lineage to Grandmother Yula Rae and Joseph Beautiful Painted Arrow Rael, a Native American Visionary of the Ute and Tiwa tribes. Both Grandmother Yula Rae and Robbie studied directly with Joseph for several decades. My Native American medicines carry the lineages of the Lakota, Tsalagi, Ute and Tiwa. I also have connections to the Nez Perce, the ancient Mayans, and the Comanche (through my Rei Ki Master).
I did not choose this career path; it chose me long ago. I began studying anatomy and physiology at the age of 6 by taking out the “H”-volume of the Encyclopedia Britannica (that is the thing we used before Google for those in their 30s and younger) and peeling back the plastic layers of the human body. I can still recall learning how to spell ‘semitendinosus’ (a hamstring muscle) and learning the route of the inferior and superior vena cavas (the veins returning deoxygenated blood from the body to the heart). By age 10, I had read every book in my parents’ house including all of my father’s old college textbooks. I received my first microscope at 10, which I still have. At night, I would take items from my parent’s medicine cabinet and mix them in the sink to watch the various chemical reactions. Growing up in the country afforded me an opportunity to study the natural world and to interact with it. We lived off the land as much as we could and we had a clear understanding of the relationship between ourselves, the land, the animals, and the world around us.
During my first professional career, I made a decision to return to school to study Biology and attend medical school. To obtain my bachelor’s degree, I attended the University of North Carolina at Charlotte (UNCC) part-time for 9 years while working full-time at my first career. During that time, I was part of a cycling team and sustained a TBI, a traumatic brain injury, as part of an accident during a two-day bike tour. Although I wanted very badly to be a pediatric cardiologist or to specialize in Emergency Medicine, I knew that my TBI and resulting daily symptoms, would, most likely, not allow that to happen. At the suggestion of a friend I was tutoring in Anatomy & Physiology, I attended an open house for massage therapy school, enrolled and trained in neuromuscular massage therapy for a year at night while still working and completing my undergraduate degree during the day. During the massage program we were exposed to the Chinese meridian system utilized in Chinese Medicine and acupuncture. Studying energy medicine and meridians made perfect sense to me. With my knowledge of dermatomes, muscles origin and insertions, circulatory and endocrine flow, the meridians were a tremendous interweaving of all the layers and individual organs systems into a synchronous organism all enlivened by the movement of Qi. Over the years as I became an anatomy, physiology and pathology instructor at the massage school and owned two massage therapy businesses, I continued to be pulled back to Chinese Medicine and acupuncture, frequently checking for local Chinese Medicine programs. I attended the open house for Daoist Traditions College of Chinese Medical Arts in Asheville, NC in 2009, immediately enrolled, and began the path to my current integrated practice. I have never looked back and never regretted my decision to follow a complementary alternative medicine (CAM) path versus an allopathic medicine one.
Q: Tell us about the services you have available for clients?
CC: My specialties are trauma-induced pathologies and orthopedics. Trauma-induced pathologies may range from auto-immune diseases, neurological diseases, rare diseases, or medically undiagnosed conditions. I am trained to see these sorts of physical presentations as a dysregulation between your Spirit and Physical Body. Physical trauma is traceable through the physical body and causes dysregulation along its path. My specialty is to stop the trauma movement, heal the trauma pathway and remove the (physical) trauma from the body. I work with a vetted team of trained trauma therapists in emotional and sexual trauma oriented disease patterns.
Orthopedics have long been my passion culminating from my own athletic experiences, my massage practices focusing on sport massage and elite-level athletes, and my own orthopedic pain experiences. I specialize in pre- and post-operative pain as well as pain from general overuse/muscular imbalance. I always work in conjunction with my team comprised of an elite structural integration bodyworker and NUCCA-trained chiropractor.
Each person is a puzzle walking a Path. My specialty is to solve the puzzle, unravel the mystery, find the origin source, and help the individual find homeostatic balance through the tools and professional partnerships at my disposal.
Q: How did you get the name Phoenix Moon?
CC: The Chinese Phoenix, 鳳凰涅槃, Feng Huang Nia Pan, is a creature that represents great luck in Chinese culture. Arriving every 500 years, the Phoenix burned itself to ash and was reborn from the Fire. Because of the alchemy of Fire, it returned stronger each time and represented eternity. The Phoenix burns because they carry the sins, guilt, pain, and sickness of Humanity. Through the Fire, the alchemy cleanses, purifies and releases those things back to the Dao (Creator, Source, God, Jesus, Buddha, Elvis—whomever your Higher Power is) for renewal and reuse in the energetic continuum of the Dao. When they are reborn from the Ash (Earth), they bring purity, clarity, renewal, innocence, balance, health, and wellness to Humanity.
The Phoenix is one of the most Yin symbols in Chinese culture (its Yang partner is the Dragon). The Moon also represents exceptionally strong Yin energy. Yin is considered, in very loose terms, to be feminine energy. Thus, Phoenix Moon represents the strongest feminine energy possible. At the time I created my practice, I wanted something that represented who I was (and still am), Phoenix Moon is that representation.
Q: If we interviewed all your past clients … what is “one” common word that comes up when they describe working with you?
CC: “Real” is the word I hear the most. I have several degrees and have studied a long time with numerous Masters. When I explain information, my gift and goal is to make difficult information make sense. I relate stories, lessons, and explanations to things my patients see, interact with, and experience every day. If I can make it make sense, if I can make them see the way I see, then they will have the first steps toward healing themselves and prevention in the future. I also have a sacred rule which is that I never ask my patients to do something that I have not done. What sort of leader would I be if I did not know the way?
I have a smart mouth and a quick wit. I speak in pop-up and scratch-n-sniff. I tell you truth wrapped in kindness. When necessary, I may put my Frye boot up your backside, but I will always follow that with a hug around your neck. I do not wear the traditional medical attire of business suits but prefer jeans, Frye boots and blouses or concert t-shirts, pencil skirts and kitten heels. I am completely tattooed— on the inside. :) All of this makes me someone that is real, approachable, relatable and a partner with my patients. I am not here to tell people what to do with their wellness…I am only a guide for as long as they want me to be a part of their healing team. My acupuncture needles are like the solar lamps you place along your driveway to illuminate your path. I place the needles and use them as lamplights to guide you back home to yourself. When I insert a needle, I invite the body to change. It can accept that change or not. I am simply a liaison between your Spirit and your Body with my tools as arbitrators in that communication.
Q: After high school, where did you feel your career path would take you?
CC: After high school, I attended CPCC, an amazing school and a great place to begin any professional life. I changed majors from business to interior design, then music, before landing on criminal justice. I thought I would be a police officer for my entire career.
Q: What was your first job? And how did it shape or impact you?
CC: My first career was as a police officer with the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department. I had 6 family members in law enforcement at the time. At the time I came on, there were not many women on the department. I was also one of the top four female shooters in the entire department and became a Range Safety Officer which meant that I assisted occasionally at the range instructing other officers how to shoot their service weapons.
How that experience shaped me is that it helped provide structure to the protector within me. I was always a protector archetype but it was not until I took the vow to give my life for the City of Charlotte and Mecklenburg County in the pursuit of upholding the law and actively began protecting those who could not protect themselves that the structure around the protector scaffolding began to take shape.
While on the department, my focus was domestic violence, rape, and sexual assault. I also focused on neighborhood kids. At that time, there were very little resources for women in the community. I created an Underground Railroad with the hotels in Uptown Charlotte and would take a woman who had been a victim of domestic violence and place her there under an assumed name while I lined up clothing, housing, job interviews, and supplies for her and her children. I had a great network and could generally have a woman relocated to new housing with clothes and job interview within four days. For women of sexual assault and rape, as the first line of contact for them, I made sure I held their integrity for them and recorded everything necessary for conviction. I may not have been able to prevent it happening to someone else, but I was going to do my part and make sure it stopped with the victim in front of me. I volunteered for all sexual assault calls at CMC and was first line of contact for more than 26 cases during my time there.
How the work impacted me is that it validated what I innately knew. Growing up in the country, I was not exposed to a large subset of the population. I was sheltered in my country world and I had never been that far into Charlotte until my first day on patrol. What I realized while serving is that there are a large number of really good people (of all races) living in challenging situations doing the very best they can every single day. Very few people wake up and say, “I think I’m just going to do harm and mooch off the world today.” Most people wake up and do they best that they can do based on their education, finances, knowledge, and experiences in that moment. To paraphrase Maya Angelou, when they have more of those things, they are able to make different choices. Those were the people that predominantly made up the population I served. The few not nice people made it difficult for the many and cast a shadow over the whole community. My beliefs that most people are good people were validated during my time as a police officer. I am grateful to those I served, and those I served with, for all they taught me.
I took another vow when I graduated from Chinese Medicine school. That vow from Chinese Ancient, Sun Si Miao, hangs on my office wall as a daily reminder of what I believe and what I will die for.
Q: Can you tell us how you manage your work life balance?
CC: That is an excellent question considering I am completing my Doctorate in Chinese Medicine and Acupuncture while running and expanding my medical practice and writing a book.
To paraphrase Simon Sinek in Leaders, Eat Last, work/life balance is created by the safety we feel through strong relationships at work and at home. By having strong relationships, we feel protected and the hormones stimulated by stress are lessened or mitigated. Relationship is my personal and professional medicine, and I work at creating both, but no relationship is more important than the relationship to myself. It has taken me many years to get to this place of realizing that and I am now at the age of what I call the “Age of No.” Saying no to the things that are not of my highest and best allows me to invest in the things that feed my spirit and build relationship in all areas of my life.
My dog, Sadie Grey Elizabeth Cliff, is my heart walking outside my body. She continually reminds me to be just in this moment and to live this moment to its absolute fullest. She teaches me to not take myself too seriously and refuses to allow me to remain stuck in that place by making me laugh. Every morning and evening she sits outside quietly observing, listening, and reconnecting with the Earth and our neighborhood. I have learned a great deal by sitting with her and watching her simply breathe in the world around her. She has taught me to eat really great food with abandon, play until you drop, sleep as much as you need, and always, always keep the puppy (child) inside you alive. She is the greatest medicine I have ever been responsible for and I am honored to be a student of her medicine for as long as we share this walk together.
Q: What’s one lesson you’ve learned in your career that you can share with our audience?
CC: Be open. Be so open that nothing can harm you. Pain only comes through resistance. If I punch a wall, there is resistance therefore there is pain. If I punch the air, there is no resistance, thus no pain. There can be no pain without resistance. Therefore, be open, be like wind, move and dance with whatever moves toward you. You can only control the 9 inches in front of you where your breath falls down around you. Beyond that, it is out of your control, so why resist? Dance instead.
Q: Which woman inspires you and why?
CC: My mother, Frankie. She passed away in 2013 from cancer three months before I graduated Chinese Medicine school. She was the first healer I ever knew yet she never furthered her education beyond high school. My entire life I watched as she would approach someone out in public. She would see them and work her way over to them striking up a conversation with them. Within 5 minutes, she would have discovered who you and your family were and would be sharing stories with you regarding your family. I watched time and time again as she would talk to these people and when they would walk away their energy would be different. They would be smiling, they would have happy tears in their eyes, they would carry themselves more upright. She had healed them simply by interacting with them. From my mom, I learned that healing does not always have to come from the point at the end of the needle. Sometimes more profound healing comes from the point at the end of sentence. She was amazing. I now understand what she saw in those people and why she had to approach them. My practice is dedicated to her. I strive every day to make her proud and to continue the tsunami of healing into the world that she created from the flutter of her Butterfly wings.
Q: What are some of the challenges you feel women face today?
CC: Patriarchy. We are, and continue to allow, the patriarchy to dominate and influence who we are, how we interact and how we view ourselves. Matriarchy was predominant in many ancient cultures. I think that it is time we bring matriarchy, along with all the rites of passage and yin-based support, back. Women have had to conform and take on a patriarchal persona in order to survive and thrive. This has resulted in women predominantly in their yang masculine which offsets their internal yin/yang balance and leads to imbalances and pathologies only caused by the excess of a paradigm not in accordance with who they are. Women, biologically and in ancient cultures, worked together to support, guide, heal and to recognize and celebrate the beautiful stages of a woman’s life. Matriarchy is about support and bringing along the young ones behind us, teaching them how to be women fully in our feminine energies. In matriarchy, there is no competition…that is a patriarchal aspect rooted in biology and based on survival of the species and reproduction. Matriarchy also rooted in our biology and based on survival and reproduction is an entirely different paradigm. What women fail to realize is that if we stand strongly in the feminine energy of who we are, which also has the yang masculine within us albeit from the female view of that masculinity, then we stand in a power so strong that no one can stop it. I get it. We are in a male dominated world. But that doesn’t mean that we have to continue to play by rules that benefit few and harm most. I, for one, refuse to play by the patriarchal rule book any longer.
Five Things About Crystal N. Cliff
1. If you could talk to one famous person past or present, who would it be and why?
I would love to speak with Hatshepsut. She was the second female pharaoh in history and the most prolific builder of Ancient Egypt accomplishing things that still cannot be replicated to this day. She is definitely my kind of woman. I would love to share time with her and feel she would have much to say about a woman owning her power without apology.
2. Who is your favorite author?
Currently, Mike Michalowitz. I have read all of his books and am consumed with implementation of his processes into my medical practice and other endeavors. He speaks my language and I really dig a mentor that can rock a vest.
3. What’s the most interesting thing about you that we wouldn’t learn from your resume alone?
I think the most interesting thing about me that you would not see within my resume alone is the fact that I am a person of PTSD and come from a trauma background. This surprises people a great deal. People are not used to someone with PTSD accomplishing so much nor being so confident and self-assured much less being open and speaking about it. I am here to bring a new face to PTSD and bring it out of the shadows where we were put and where shame holds us in. We wear the shame of the people that created the trauma within us. That is wrong. It is not ours to hold and I, for one, refuse to do so. I do recognize the gifts the trauma has brought me. Everything is yin and everything is yang.
With each challenge there is also a benefit. I am well aware of that. I hope to help people realize that the face of PTSD is not just the homeless veteran on the street nor the woman who has been a victim of domestic violence or sexual abuse. I am here to begin changing the stigma and shame placed on people with PTSD. Trauma happened to us. It influences every aspect of our world and how we observe, hear, and interact with it. However, we get to choose to wear the shame of our traumatizers or not. We get to choose to allow that trauma to create diseases, auto-immune dysregulation, and cancers within us or not. I chose ‘not’, and I hope to help others choose ‘not’ as well.
4. What is the first thing you notice about a person?
Their story. A person’s story is carried in their spiritual and physical form and is visible before they ever speak. Moreover, how someone carries themselves, how they interact with the environment around them and the words they choose, tell you everything you need to know about who they are, where they came from, and where they are heading.
5. If you could go back in time, what year would you travel to and why?
The 1400s in Scotland would be my first stop. My family has traced our lineage to the southern coast of Scotland and my relative, Morgaine, was a powerful Queen, healer, and sorceress. I have many questions for her and for my Grandmother Gawyn.
I would also choose 1890 to my relative, Madison, as she and her husband Matthew traversed across country to become homesteaders. I have many questions for her regarding her upbringing and her relationship with Chief Joseph, the Nez Perce and with Greywolf.