Old Chinese medical chart on acupuncture meridians

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I came to acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine through a long and winding road.  My desire to affect people’s lives catapulted me towards the healing arts.  I left a mercenary career for an emotionally rewarding one.  I realized that for me, I was exercising the mind and body heavily, and my spirit was suffering.  From early on in my clinical studies, I found much enjoyment being with my patients and helping them achieve a healthy attitude and move towards living a healthy life.  I knew I was in the right place.  The ability to share knowledge and serve others was more rewarding to me than anything I had ever done in the past.  I was becoming a balanced mind, body, and spirit.  More human.

In these past years as an acupuncturist, I’ve learned a few things about my practice with Chinese medicine that I wish to relate to you, the reader.  Reasonably, I learned none of these ideas in the classroom.  The classroom prepares a student for exams, while real clinical experience prepares one for practical application.  With what is written here, you may find some similarities with your own practice.  Or, if you are a patient, you may find something here that resonates with your deeper self.

1.  Acupuncture cultivates awareness.  Awareness is my daily practice, my meditation, every time I see a patient.  I have to be fully present in order to do my best.  The very nature of an acupuncture practitioner is that he or she uses the entire range of senses for diagnosis, assessment, and treatment.  In my office, I am invited to be aware of the existing moment through the immediate use of my senses.  Awareness of the season, the time of day, the temperature of the room, the smell of the room, the sound of the patient, and the presence of my own mind are all constituents of this moment.  Just by focusing on the present moment, all thoughts of the past and the future fall away and I see what is in front of me.  I am grateful to practice awareness every single day.  If you believe in enlightenment, then trust that awareness is part of your journey.

2.  The patient is me and I am the patient.  There is this false idea that we are all separate, unique individuals that walk this planet.  But, that isn’t so.  Only for now, I am the doctor and you are the patient.  But, in another instance, I could be the patient and you, the doctor.  What separates me from you is time and circumstance.  At any moment, we could change places.  So, we are not that different at all.  In fact, we are all one and the same.  We all follow the same cycle of birth, life, and death.  This is a fundamental commonality shared among all living things.

Therefore, I treat that person in front of me with the same care and respect that I would (and should) treat my self and my own family.  If I treat you as I would treat myself, then my mind is less distracted and the way becomes more clear.  I choose to believe that nothing separates us but our own ego.

3.  I cannot cure everyone.  In fact, I can cure no one.  I assist in helping a patient’s body (mind, spirit) to heal itself by promoting a therapeutic environment using herbs, acupuncture, massage, and ideas.  The very nature of Chinese medicine is to guide the body back to a form of homeostasis.  My knowledge and understanding of Chinese medicine plays a large part in that guidance.  Another part of the healing equation is action on the patient’s part.  Many times, a patient is not ready to heal.  He or she may be attached (subconsciously or consciously) to his particular illness or disorder.  It is also my duty to assist the patient in understanding the things he or she may be doing to deter their healing process and whether or not I can help at this time.

Part of my practice of Chinese medicine (or any medicine) is showing the patient the path, and part of it is teaching the patient to walk the path.  The third part of my practice is helping the patient find a different path, if they choose.

4.  Acupuncture is a translation of vibrational energy.  Let me try to explain this idea in simple fashion.  Everything in the world is made up of vibrational atomic energy.  Atoms vibrate at different frequencies.  Atoms packed loosely together can vibrate at a high frequency, whereas atoms packed tightly can vibrate at a lower frequency.  It’s the nature of physics.  Every human being is made of multiple levels of vibrational energy.  Bones, muscles, and skin are the most dense physical level, or plane of human vibrational energy.  Due to the close proximity, the atoms of these more solid substances vibrate at a lower frequency (i.e. more slowly).   A higher vibrational energy in the body would be something like the brain’s electrical impulses that stimulate the muscles to move.

So, let’s assume that there are multiple vibrational energies, or planes in the human body.  All of the planes are vibrating at different frequencies.  Now herbs, as well as the acupuncture needles, are also comprised of vibrational energy.  By prescribing an herbal decoction, or inserting acupuncture needles, I am using one form of vibrational energy to affect the patient’s own vibrational energy.  It is up to my skills as an acupuncturist, to move, or manipulate the energy of the patient in a therapeutic way (i.e. to disrupt disease or illness).

This also goes back to #2 and further reinforces that we are all the same.  Physically, we are made of the same elements of atomic matter and vibrational energy.

5.  My practice is my daily life.  I practice what I preach.  I live and breathe much of the ideas that I share with patients.  How else can I know how certain exercises, herbal formulas and acupuncture points feel?  I wouldn’t want to see an acupuncturist that didn’t like to treat themselves with natural medicine.  The experience of Traditional Chinese Medicine on myself adds a deeper dimension to my understanding as well as my ability to relate to the patient.

To further expound upon the idea presented in #4 above, my own vibrational energy is standing in the room with my patient’s energy.  Of course then, we must affect each other on an energetic level.  (Call it the placebo effect, white coat syndrome, power position, or influence, whatever.)  My state of mind and my actions affect everything around me.  I have to have a clear mind and intention to perform acupuncture because these things affect my vibrational energy, and subsequently, the energy of the patient.  They affect my focus during needling, my diagnostic ability, and my ability to prescribe the right herbal formula.  Therefore, to cultivate this energy and allow it to flow, I practice meditation, qigong, acupuncture, and herbal therapy on myself.  It’s part of my desire to live the medicine and make this practice my life.  In Chinese medicine, this concept of vibrational energy is also called qi.

Acupuncture and Chinese medicine has opened up a whole new world for me to understand medicine, people, and the cycle of natural life and all things.  Hopefully, this generates some thought about your own acupuncture practice or even your life practice.  I’m always welcome to comments, suggestions, and questions!  Feel free to share!