My Acupuncture Story, or Why I decided to study acupuncture: The beginning and ongoing journey to master the medicine
At some point in the course of most patient’s treatment with me, I typically get the question, “How did you get into acupuncture?”. So I thought I’d answer that question here and share my acupuncture story openly.
While my story is pretty typical, I believe the most interesting thing about it is that I know it’s not my own; it’s shared with thousands of other people who had the same beliefs, dreams, or struggles, and who now call themselves Licensed Acupuncturists.
One year way back in 1993, I was a little wayward, taking the typical general education classed in college and having a vague notion that I would go on to be a psychologist or social worker. But mostly, I was just looking for something exciting to happen. :-)
One day, I saw a book on a friend’s shelf. It was all about natural eating, living, and medicine.
This was all new for me, but what I read there made sense. It impressed me enough that I stayed up until 3 a.m. reading it cover to cover. The next day I resolved to change my major and to study holistic medicine.
While I wasn’t decided between naturopathic vs. acupuncture school, as I researched more about the theories behind Chinese medicine, I became more and more fascinated with this mysterious, yet time-proven system of medicine.
I started seeing an acupuncturist and the things she could tell me about my body, simply by reading my pulses, confounded and mesmerized me.
Acupuncture: From Obscure to Common Household Word in 20 Years
The thing that strikes me now is how during that time in the early 90’s, when people would ask me what career I was headed towards and I would answer “holistic medicine”, they had no idea what I was talking about!
I’d get confused looks, people would cock their head and ask, “What’s that?”.
The fact that within 20 short years natural and holistic medicine has gone from something nobody had even heard of, to being part of the mainstream health system, is both astounding and inspiring.
While it’s easy to get frustrated over the failures of modern medicine and how much work there is to do to fix its course, we can take comfort in how much the medical field has changed in the very recent past.
But this still doesn’t really answer why I got into acupuncture
Without even knowing it at the time, looking back I see that from the dawning of my adulthood, I’ve had an innate sense of the perfection of the body…of its ability to heal and function well if it’s just given the right environment in which to thrive.
I’d had no interest in medicine or natural living before reading that book, but afterwards I immediately changed my shopping and eating habits and started buying organic and rid processed foods almost completely from my diet. That alone resolved many of the various symptoms I’d thought I just had to deal with my whole life: blood sugar ups and downs, huge energy fluctuations, accompanying brain fog.
While there have been a few times where I’ve opted for western medicine to get me through certain crises (for example an excruciating herniated disc that vicodin very much helped me survive while I got chiropractic and acupuncture that helped me heal); except for emergency health situations where western medicine really thrives, I’ve always intuitively felt that putting drugs in the body is negating and denying its own ability to figure it out on its own and be well.
Drugs have felt like an insult and assault on these bodies that were made to survive and thrive without them.
I love the “Mystery” of the Body’s Wisdom
How the body does this is still, no matter how much one studies, a mystery at its core.
But Chinese medicine itself is a mystery. It deals with energy, and flow, and “balance”, not concrete terms that can easily be measured and standardized and put in nice neat boxes or charts or spreadsheets of data.
Clinically, I can explain what’s happening when a patient gets imbalanced, and how we will set about rebalancing them. But in the end, it’s still a big mystery that I must step back and take awe at, as I witness my patients healing.
All of this, is what drew me into Chinese medicine and the study of acupuncture. I just love that mystery. I just love this trust and awe of the body and its knowledge of healing.
Western medicine completely ignores this wisdom of the body, and that, I believe, is its fundamental flaw from which all of its weaknesses are born.
That is why the tagline of my practice is “The body’s own wisdom is your ultimate healer”. That is what I believe in, and what I work to tap into each time a person walks into my practice.
My inspiring colleagues in acupuncture school
Many people don’t realize how rigorous acupuncture school is, at least as I can speak for in the state of California, where I studied. There were long days, vacation break semesters, and it was 4 years duration, the same time it takes to complete western medical didactic studies.
Our first week, we knew that our classmates would be with us for good or for bad, day in and day out, for the next four years. At orientation, we sat in a huge circle and went around introducing ourselves, and explained why we had chosen to embark on these studies.
While the energy in the room started off with a giddy nervousness, as each person spoke an energy of reverence and respect overtook the room.
One by one, we heard stories of serious health challenges that only Chinese medicine had been able to resolve. We heard stories of family members who they thought were dying with mysterious illnesses that western medicine couldn’t diagnose, but who were suddenly healed after receiving acupuncture treatment. We heard stories of fractured bones healed so quickly that doctors were convinced they’d actually misdiagnosed the break due to looking at the wrong patient’s Xrays.
There were tears in some cases as people spoke of the gratitude they felt for the medicine, and the fact that they too were now going to be able to study and be for other people what their acupuncturist had been for them or their family.
What I know now about acupuncture, after many years in practice
I don’t claim to know everything about this medicine. In fact, the longer I practice, the less I think I know, and the more I realized there is yet to learn.
I’ve been humbled over the years by my own and other’s health challenges that force me to delve even deeper into the medicine and nutrition, and stretch my knowledge to solve the puzzle.
For one to claim that they are a master of this medicine is usually to reveal their ignorance of it, for to truly understand this medicine is to grasp that it is too deep for anyone to really master in one lifetime. So we do the best we can and use each challenging case as an opportunity to gain more of our own understanding of the body’s wisdom.
So how I got into acupuncture is the same simple and complex reason I stay in it: because it’s a time-tested profound mystery that reveals itself to me to the extent that I am willing to stay present and go deep into its possibilities for helping myself and others to heal.