As the summer begins to wind down (nooooooo!!) and I look back at the last five months, I am somewhat awestruck that I have given around 400 treatments despite the summer slowdown. I reflect on how much I’ve learned, the many people whose lives have touched mine in such a short span of time, and I can only be grateful that this is, after all, just the beginning of the journey.
Perhaps the biggest lesson so far is realizing that a huge part of the healing is being able to let go and let the needles do their “magic”. The same goes for me as well as my patients. We both have to trust the medicine and get out of its way. The body knows how to heal if you just point (har har) it in the right direction.
When I started at the clinic, my boss and mentor advised, “Don’t sweat the medicine. I wouldn’t have hired you if I didn’t believe that you’re a good clinician.”
Since then, I’ve had a range of outcomes among my patients. While I am sorely tempted to take responsibility for the ones who got better and wash my hands of those who showed no improvement, it would be quite arrogant of me to take credit in either situation because the patient plays such an integral part in the process of healing.
Those who do particularly well with acupuncture still come in with their doubts, mind you, but they bring an open mind and a willingness to see where this might go. We come to a tacit agreement that we will both show up – I put in needles, they try to relax – and we hope for the best. Often, the results surprise us. Jessica went from one migraine per week to none for over two months. Another patient’s ultrasound showed that her ovarian cyst shrank by half with consistent acupuncture and herbs.
On the flip side, those who don’t do well remind me of the kids in the car who keep asking, “Are we there yet? Are we there yet?” because they are so fixated on where they think they should be that they don’t let themselves take the journey. They want to know what this needle does and why I put it there. They demand to know when the treatments will start working. These are perfectly valid questions, but I can tell when they are asked – not out of curiosity – but from a place of anxiety and set expectations.
The point, I suppose, is that the art of Chinese medicine is bigger than any of us. Let’s just do our part – and by that, I mean, show up – and get out of its way.
P.S. Watch and be inspired by this Ted talk by Elizabeth Gilbert if you want to hear more about what I mean when I say “show up”: