I realize that as an acupuncturist, I don’t post very much about needles. The needles are a given; you can read about the effects of acupuncture in many other places. I have no interest in convincing anyone of anything, and acupuncture's efficacy does not hinge upon your belief. Not to discount the cool things we learn from the studies, but the medicine speaks for itself. The placement of needles and moxa requires years of training, theory, and practice. Chinese medical tradition is built upon thousands of years and millions of living participants. Acupuncture relies on an intuitive conversation between bodies (the practitioner’s and the co-conspirator’s), as well as everything we do with our time away from the treatment table.
Acupuncture and herbal medicine distill the material you find here. The medical sonnets, the jokes, the ancestors, the interviews, the old world traditions, the art, the herbs, the ceremony; that’s my practice. We bring our whole worlds to the table, a collaboration of galaxies. The old doctors practiced art forms—calligraphy, poetry, martial arts, divination—to cultivate depth and balance. They used multiple surfaces to polish themselves so they would be good, reflective medicine. (Have you ever felt better just from standing next to someone?)
The capacity of the practitioner, and the rapport between you and her, set the tone for healing. With what adjectives does she modify the medicine? Does she embody the foundational tenets of Chinese cosmology? Does she practice a more syncretic art form? The main credit goes to the medicine itself, arising through our hands and hearts on multiple lands. We dip our backbones in the ink of original teachings to write new prescriptions that suit this time and place.
I continuously explore my own roots so that I can practice the medicine of another culture with respect. (I received a masters in Indigenous Mind from Naropa University. So fitting that I got to embark on the lifelong recovery of my indigenous mind because Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche created this dharma academy in the West. These spiritual currents feel like twin rungs of my DNA.)
Before I opened Ancestral Acupuncture, I went to Land of Medicine Buddha to ask permission to practice acupuncture. I asked my ancestors, and I asked the spirits of the land on which I work. I continue to make offerings to these teammates, who enhance the healing. Everyone seems happy. (Chinese medicine, and any indigenous medicine, was always practiced in tandem with the land and ancestors. These schisms are new.)
Our collaborative healing relies on time, space, practitioner, co-conspirator, and all the unseen forces we bring to the table, including freedom and fate. When we treat the whole person, we treat her infinite extensions—ancestry, legacy (in whatever form that takes), and all other relationships. The past is as fluid as the present and future.
I work under the premise that everyone is already healed and whole. This frees up a playful energy, even as we weep together over the Latest Thing. Everything is being treated; everything is medicine. To focus this broad base into the point of a needle—that’s the challenge that I love.
Since I am an acupuncturist, here are a few technical factors that go into needling technique, in case you think you want to hear about it:
-Insert and remove the needle upon inhalation or exhalation to achieve a more precise effect
-Rotate the needle a certain number of times to “tonify,” and a different number of times to “sedate”
-Rotate the needle in one direction versus to other to achieve different effects
-Needle toward or against the current of the channel to tonify or sedate, respectively
-Needle distal points to treat upper disorders
-Needle superficially or (or contact needle) for superficial disorders, or to affect quick change using most yang aspect of the body (surface)
-Put moxa on the head of a needle to send warmth or impetus into an acupuncture point
-Puncture blood vessels to bleed points, to reduce certain kinds of pain or to release heat from the body
-Needle according to time of day to harness the energy where it is most focused and available
-Use strong, precise scalp stimulation for strokes and tremors
-Use point prescriptions, like constellations on the body, to recalibrate the body beyond “single point function”
-Use the correct ordering of points (order matters)
-Correlate nuanced relationships between organ systems with five element theory (needle the Lung channel to nourish the Kidney, as Lung [metal] is the Mother of Kidney [water])
-Put music or mantras into the points to enhance effect
-Have the person participate in needling visualizations at appropriate times to enhance effect
-Respond spontaneously to the auspices of time and space (evidenced in a person’s apparent body)
-Corroborate theory with intuition; know when to forsake theory
This represents one tiny margin of detail in acupuncture. Our endless medicine staggers me with detail, scope, and complexity.
*awesome anatomical illustration by unknown artist (if anyone knows who did it, tell us her name!)