Five Things I Have Learned From Community Acupuncture

1.  Acupuncture works.

Whether it’s sciatica, allergies, digestion, depression, menstrual troubles, IVF, joint pain, insomnia or just wanting to deal with that stress in your shoulders and neck which everyone seems to have – acupuncture just works. The trick is coming to a number of sessions in that first month or two. For more chronic issues that are complex and long standing (multiple surgeries, multiple addictions, multiple pharmaceuticals) it may take longer, even up to a year of regular acupuncture treatments. The point is to come and get the balance and go home and see what that balance serves when you’re put in your normal situation again. How does this feel now that I’ve had acupuncture? What is my body telling me about this symptom? What can I change about my situation or my environment that works better for me? My symptoms are teaching me something about my life – can I listen?

One woman had sciatica going down her left leg. She noticed it came around whenever she was doing what she called “museum walking”  or walking slowly in the grocery store, or in the museum, lost in thought or being overly thoughtful about something. So I treated her Spleen and Stomach, which governs thought and this kind of rumination. I also treated her Gall Bladder which is about the direction of thought, and making wise judgement (it also happened to lie over where she was experiencing the pain). She noticed a huge improvement and only came back one other time or two because she had had that realization while she was also getting the right treatment.

2. Believe in your ability to heal.

Placebo affect is a real thing in acupuncture and I now have a lot of respect for it. It’s why people seek out healers in the form of acupuncture and other modalities – because these healers believe they can heal and they give them unconditional love while they are doing it. The Western medicine system is meant to be broken so there is incentive for us to come back. It’s not based on healing. It helps, but does not fix. If we were fixed, we would not need the expensive surgeries or expensive drugs foretold of fixing. People come to acupuncture when there is nothing out there in the market that can work. Pills will just mask or complicate it. Surgeries just create more pain. Therapists and psychotherapists only know the part of the story and the trauma we are willing to reveal. Enter acupuncture.

I have a story of one woman who comes in two, sometimes three times a week every week. You wouldn’t presume she was suffering as much as she is. In her intake form, it is written into all of the margins all the things that are wrong – every last thing. When I pull up by her side for another treatment, she typically is in a rush, completely overwhelmed, and complaining about the same things, with no connection or progressive consciousness around them, over and over. She almost never stays for the recommended half an hour with the needles which we as a clinic recommend – like it’s on-purpose. She is one of the most difficult patients to see because she comes in so much yet never speaks about any marked change or improvement after each treatment. She doesn’t want to improve if you ask me. She never talks about what helps, she only talks about what is wrong and you can almost see a sort of obsessive search in her eyes for what is wrong and what else is wrong as she talking. She keeps coming back because she is getting something out of it, namely someone to listen to her talk about all this. I spoke to her about wanting to heal and believing she can heal as being part of the whole deal here and we walked through a couple things she can decide for herself that she will and won’t do so she can avoid some of her symptoms.

If you want to heal, you have to follow the rules. The first rule is wanting to heal. The second rule is being ready to make the change with what you see. What foods help, what routine helps, and more importantly what attitude helps. The attitude will get you results. No one will get anywhere if their mind is only searching for the bad. There is SO MUCH research on placebo, the subconscious mind, and our ability to heal our bodies when we believe we are already healed. Believe you are healed in this very moment and don’t pay attention to the circumstances that brought you here. You’ll get through it. The third rule is staying for the half an hour that is recommended. Taking such precautions, showing up for your ‘Why’, showing up for partnership with the practitioner working for you, as well as relaxing, and breathing into this knowing will be the magic elixir to garner that we are healed and healing. So much can come from this shift in our stance.

3. Don’t take anything personally.

I learned that in a community setting, as well as in life, the less you take things personally the more you save yourself necessary pain and the easier it will be to get back to your work helping others. In place of taking something personally, hold a stance of compassion that you don’t know what people are going through, but you are sending them love from that tenderness in your heart that you have also been hurt too. They are that way for a reason and you will never know why but you have to be compassionate. There is a lot of pain and sickness in the world. Not just children starving in Africa but people who can’t relax or who punish others constantly for their own state which they can’t control. This is a time where people need love. They need lots and lots of love. Most people probably don’t know what unconditional love is let alone feels like. If someone treats you like shit from the get-go, do your best not to react. This is such a good lesson, as difficult as it is. If a moment could be stretched out for five minutes, wow. We could see all the things that goes on in people’s heads and their assumptions of everything which create the cage of the experience that we have. We are what we put out there. Have compassion.

4. It’s O.K. to relax.

Everyone in community acupuncture must relax as a very important component of treatment. After we consult with their issues it’s time to put in the pins and let the acupuncture settle into their body. When you receive acupuncture, it’s like being drugged up on the sensation of life coursing through you. It is feeling your blood and your bones and you spirit aura around you getting a cleansing, especially the longer you stay and the more often you come. The lull of sleep with the brightness of healing – this is how it feels to me. This is a potent time to feel like you are being healed, to make resolutions, intentions, and awaken to your own feelings in your body and the feelings and pains we suppress so they can move out. I was so surprised to find how little people sleep or rest. This is so important. If we got more rest, a majority of our symptoms wouldn’t be there – this is almost a guarantee and I’ve read this in sleep studies. In a community setting you get to rest and it’s O.K. because other people are resting too! And the world is not collapsing and we are creating a new reality that it’s okay to take care of yourself and to rest. There’s also this fear about resting that people are afraid to rest even if their body needs this and is garnering this response from the treatment. Please don’t be afraid of rest or of naps or of going to bed early. This is a healing response and we have to willing to go through the healing so we can be healed.

5. Don’t let anyone tell you to hold back your love. 

When I first started, the owner of the clinic told me that I needed to be “consistent” with people and he kept repeating this over and over to me. I understood the concept but at the same time it was very confusing to me. He meant that I shouldn’t do one thing one day to a patient and another thing another day with the same patient or other patients, whether it was pins placed in one part of the body versus another, or if having more of a conversation on one day than another day. I soon realized this had to do with his own fear in opening his heart than it had to do with a patient’s experience of the clinic or of the treatment they were getting from me (or of me as a practitioner). I learned that I can be loving and open to everyone in various ways, subtle and obtuse, without sacrificing the quality of the treatment and their experience. Patients will know immediately the difference. People can feel it. Some patients we naturally have the exchange of words, some others prefer to talk very little – and what matters every time, before I ever pick up a pin to insert, is my unconditional love that I feel for them before treating them. It comes with the intention of healing them, in the belief that they CAN be healed. Who else is going to hold that in possibility for them? It’s up to me to love and believe in them. People are desperate for a person to treat them with love, kindness, and care. This was a huge learning and I will always follow my own guidance in this regard and not hold anything about myself back when I am in a place of being in service to others. I have a lot of compassion for people who feel they have to hold back being who they are, or that who they are isn’t good enough to serve a person in the moment. I feel like this sums up all of the previous four things I have mentioned – that there is no holding back. If we give love to others without expectation or an agenda, then a majority of the healing has already been accomplished. We are not alone. We are here to grow together and we are all healed together.

Acupuncture With A Side of Fried Chicken

I don’t eat fried chicken but I work at a place for fried chicken. The food will always be “Good.” “Amazing.” I say “You’ll love it” to people. Because they will love it. I tried the fried chicken once and it was amazing, and then I had diarrhea and migraines for days. I had to get to acupuncture pronto to help my gut. That, ginger root, and exercise helped it get totally better. And I will still sell both of those things to people touting their goodness for the right reasons.

Granted bar food is so easy to sell. “You’re here for the delicious bar food, right? Do you like grease? Spice? Drinks and beer cheese fries? Doing something totally indulgent? Sweet. Welcome and let me help you get you set up.”

I want to make selling acupuncture this easy. People walking into my clinic knowing what they wanna get, looking forward to the final product, and money is already on the table.

~ ~ ~

 

Since March I took this job at Crisp Restaurant + Bar in Shaw neighborhood of DC, a fast-changing part of D.C., with a lot of cute neighborhood digs.

The restaurant, on 1st and Rhode Island, best known for their hot chicken, a fried specialty, and classic southern-cooked sides such as mac n cheese (super cheesy), collard greens, french fries, banana pudding, and the famous craft cocktail like an Old Fashioned…

Though this chicken joint is ‘not me’ – it IS me.

As an acupuncturist I have been thinking the thoughts of WHO AM I if I eat gluten, or love cheesy mac n cheese, drink soda when I eat out, or have a few bottomless mimosas too many like these other customers are doing.

Where others drop their money on a six pack or some fried chicken, I will drop any amount of money on the right dairy-free milk, the right sugar-free kimchi, or the right gluten-free granola. Definitely I am a bit of a holistic fanatic.  If it’s natural and botanical, spiritual or transformational, high vibrating, food, supplements, or access to higher knowledge, I will pay top dollar. For example I will spend the extra $4 on a juice with juiced parsley in it because I know parsley helps eliminate mercury and free radical levels from the system.

Of course being well versed in the realms of healing, using holistic methods of healing (acupuncture, nutrition, rest, water, breathing exercises, chakra meditations, natural herbs or supplements, journaling, yoga what have you) is my job and I should invest in these things. It’s good to have high health standards so I can teach my patients. I coach people to solve their health concerns sustainably and holistically, helping to move their chi based on how cultivated I am in the cultivation and movement of my own chi.

I had a lot of fears going into a new service job (never mind that I had worked on a coffee bus on Hawaii). What would people think of me as a healer/health conscious person? Would I look less like an acupuncturist? Would I get ostracized or bullied by people at work for being ‘too holistic’? Would I fall back into some old habits (drinking, smoking, not sleeping enough, not exercising enough, whatever) that would negatively impact or compromise my health in some way? Would I pick up some bad friendships or bad vibes dealing with people or would I get along with everyone? And the bigger question for my career, how would I be in bigger and bigger environments around more and more people and still maintain healing presence and a sense of vitality to be able to heal? I ask these questions for myself and for many other practitioners of healing arts or who feel a calling to take holistic measures in their lives but also have to be out in the world interacting with many different businesses, working otherwise for yourself and paying all the bills.

I have been able to make this experience work for me despite my past experiences in bars, in the nightlife lifestyle, which is bringing up past times I was bullied (really!) for having food intolerances or wanting to go to bed early, dealing with bad vibes, and getting myself into trouble. I had shut myself off and distanced myself a lot from what represented to me these oppositional forces. I’ve adopted that I just need to be in the moment with my experience. (Isn’t that always the answer?)

I can now love and accept the irony here. Doing something I want to do that is the opposite of what people expect is part of a soul expansion I am doing- something my soul needs to explore and learn from and grow from for reasons that are mysterious. (This is in fact the hallmark sign of soul work).

 

And I’ll close with a story that I feel is related, learning not to take yourself too seriously making life out to be so linear or absolute…that healing is neither linear or absolute:

In the car on the way home from a retreat with my acupuncture class, I told a friend a bit too preemptively, and a bit too boldly (I was a little grumpy at the time) that she, a recovering alcoholic going to meeting Alcoholics Anonymous, would one day find herself  years from now able to have a drink without calling herself or labeling herself an alcoholic, or feeling the pain or guilt at any trajectory of relapse. I was being a bit of a devil’s advocate.

Of course she got really mad at me because AA was her life, her support, and her community at that point in her recovery. Duh, it was upsetting to her when so much of her life and her transition was tied to this 12-Step program (which is really an amazing resource for people struggling with addictions). I felt bad after I said it, it was not my place to say, and even in my grumpy state, it was coming from a good intention. At the time I had just finished reading Eckhart Tolle’s ‘The Power of Now’ and he made this exact point about an alcoholic in recovery.

I know it sounds kinda mean and maybe crazy, especially to people who have struggled with addiction (which, if we lived in our 20s, we all probably have). Definitely we can all agree any addiction is a brain disease (an escape, seeking comfort from the outside, seeking to change your state to avoid old unidentified patterns of pain) that takes a lot of time to heal, undoing karma with people interpersonally and reworking the structure of your life.

I wanted to leave with this above idea anyway, that there will come a day when we don’t need to identify with what we’ve been handed and the wounds we were meant to bear, the labels we have had to carry – we need the story and we need to move beyond the story. Ultimately.

And that would be freeing. Imagine how liberating that would be, if we aren’t these realities, we have already overcome what we ‘thought’ we were without even trying.  We realize we didn’t need those things to be sane anyway, everything is wrote, and we can trust ourselves exactly for who we are for now anyway.

How often do we take for granted how much we have changed that would make an outcome totally different if we truly saw ourselves for who we are Today?

It’s important to continuously let go of the past, identifying with it, letting it define who we are. We can’t let just anything in our life DEFINE us. These things of ‘WHO AM I’ of where I eat, where I work, what I do, who I connect with are not ME – IDENTIFIED. Doing that will limit where our soul needs to experience everything.

I was moved that what I felt was called for was to be a server, and I smile to myself when I think of the term ‘server.’ It’s about being humble and getting your work done and being there for people.

I decided I would trust this idea that kept repeatedly entering my mind (even before my friend who owns the place offered that I come in). I realized I like the service industry a lot. I like the people I interact with. I like the community and the camaraderie and doing business with people. The people I work with at Crisp feel like family, and each of us has our important role which feels very grounding.

I want to sell acupuncture and create community and family. I want to make holistic healthcare as accessible and wonderful as rich greasy food is to the American diet. I am learning about creating the consistency and proper nourishment for everyday people and how to serve up exactly what they want every day. Like a cold beer that could actually be good for you. 🙂

Heart Surgery

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Hopefully the docs are zippering up my dad’s chest from the heart surgery he had this morning by now (just another Friday the 13th tale) …

In the early 90s this procedure used to be risky and had a significant fatality rate. Now it’s generic protocol for many Americans. Western medicine is pretty unbelievable. I still feel nervous for him, because I remember learning about this surgery in grade school. And I got upset he had a beer last night with dinner before going in because why wouldn’t you want to hydrate, hydrate, promote iron levels for quality immune response, faster recovery, regular mood..? I think about the ‘little things’ all the time, probably too much.

Live and let live. Live and let the heart get hooked up to a machine, get hooked back up to the body, get hooked back to the brain, to be pumped without feeling, without emotion.

Before I go in to see him in intensive care, I am studying again today and again for this board exam with deep love in my heart for acupuncture, with deeply refreshed personal will. When I get that piece of paper this spring (by the will of God; God willing) saying I’m nationally certified as a Diplomat of Acupuncture I’m going to go full steam ahead. I’ll wear a stethoscope and a white coat (and a pair of fake glasses to look the fashion)(-athough nothing really about me will be fake)).

I’m going to tell people how to breath and offer exercises to help them regulate their heartbeat and their breath. I’ll say one or two sentences about their heart being the Emperor of the Kingdom. The heart must be a spacious, open spiritual vessel to the Five Emotions. The emissaries of the organs which arrive for counsel next to this seated Emperor, Her Highness the Spiritual vessel of the Soul, the One Soul (One Love).

Mostly I’m not going to say anything. I’m going to listen to their heartbeat so they can listen to their heartbeat too. Mostly I’m going to stick needles all over their body so they can feel them sticks too. Feel that body. The body is a vessel for this life too.

I hope they have zippered up my father’s dear precious body with his clean heart for this next segment of his life before the Return. I am thinking of how his body looks like my body. I am my father’s daughter, carrying his father’s doctorate degree in primary care, which skipped a generation and become Chinese. 🙂