SPIRITED. Lisa Eaves has found satisfaction in running her own acupuncture therapy practice.
When Lisa Eaves meets new patients, they inevitably ask: “Do you have kids?” And when she says no, their knee-jerk response is: “Why are you doing this?”
Little wonder. Eaves, 49, is a licensed acupuncture therapist in Washington, D.C., who specializes in fertility and women’s health issues. She’s the sole proprietor of Heal From Within Acupuncture and the Mind/Body Fertility Program of D.C. Ninety percent of her practice is treating women trying to get pregnant.
“I love children but never imagined having any of my own,” says Eaves. “It seems like a good balance to me—not bringing any children into the world myself, I spend my time helping other people do so.”
Eaves’s softly lit office oozes a New Age-y ambience, from the background music wafting through the space to a richly woven rug hanging on the wall, flickering candles, and a bowl of smooth stones. Next door is a yoga studio, across the hall a masseuse works her craft, and beyond the window lies a rooftop Zen garden.
It’s the antithesis of her once hard-charging world as a highly ranked technical support manager at Fannie Mae, where it was not unusual for Eaves to be tied to her beeper 24-7. “I was incredibly driven, constantly in the office working,” she recalls.
She was rewarded with a salary nearing six figures and all the benefits. But she burned out. “There is a price you pay for staying where you are,” Eaves says. “It kills your spirit after a while.”
Eaves’s spirit and approach to life have always been nontraditional—evolving over time. After high school, she barnstormed the country, playing outfield on a women’s softball team. “My education was on the road,” she says, laughing.
In the off-season, she pieced together college credits at the University of Louisville, close to her Kentucky childhood home. Finally, at 27, she headed east. She finished her bachelor of science degree in business at the University of Maryland in 1987 and quickly landed a job managing contracts for a firm building turnkey systems for the Department of Defense.
Diagnosis. During that time, Eaves was diagnosed with melanoma. “It was really scary to have the big ‘C,'” she recalls. She began doing meditation and looking for teachers. She went to different churches trying to find answers.
In 1993, she accepted a position at Fannie Mae and quickly became immersed in her work. At the time, a friend was studying acupuncture. Eaves was curious about how it might help her deal with her work stress but pushed it aside—until she faced the milestone of turning 40. A two-week rafting trip through the Grand Canyon stirred things up. She spent her time off the river keeping a journal, losing herself in the beauty of the landscape and her thoughts. “It was unsettling,” she recalls. “I was going to be 40. I was alone. My family was far away, and I was trying to figure out what I was doing here.”
When she returned to Washington, she started reading about Chinese medicine, made acupuncture appointments for herself, visited the Maryland Institute of Traditional Chinese Medicine, and enrolled in classes. She both worked and went to school full time, but eventually she began working three days a week. In 2000, after graduation, she started her part-time practice but held on at Fannie Mae for four more years.
Financially, Eaves has made it work by living simply and always putting money away. In addition, she had saved carefully before heading off on her own, built up a healthy 401(k), and accumulated a respectable amount of Fannie Mae company stock.
Energy boost. After two years, her practice is pulling in more revenue than she was making at Fannie Mae. But she owns the business, so she has to keep plowing money back into it. There are marketing expenses, rent, paying a bookkeeper, shelling out for health insurance, and funding her retirement.
Her fertility work developed naturally. “That’s just who was finding me,” she says. Today, Eaves sees about 30 patients a week, in addition to her Mind/Body workshops. “I coach these women,” she says. “Acupuncture is just the tip of it. It’s not just a physical treatment. You really tap into people’s energy and their spirit. It’s a little lightning rod to the human spirit.”
In her workshops, she teaches stress-reduction techniques and ways to harness inner strength through meditation, yoga, and nutrition.
The group discusses stress hormones that are in the bloodstream when a woman is going through fertility treatment. “It’s right up there with people having been diagnosed with cancer and other life-threatening diseases,” says Eaves. That anxiety “challenges everything you have ever thought about yourself and your marriage, your spouse, your relationship with God, and who you are. It’s a very isolating experience that brings everything to the surface. My goal is for them to be at peace, whatever the outcome is.”