3700 times: Measuring Change

I had a professor in acu school that said words that stick with me, and we’ve all heard it, that our job as acupunks is really just to effect change. That’s it in a nutshell. Theories, traditions, styles, approaches, techniques, disease mechanisms, pathology trajectories aside; that is all it is. I think someone said it here already, that we’re just pushing that new first domino.

We just had our two year anniversary, a time of looking back and ahead, the end of the year wrap up, reflecting in order to start making the new goals. Would we like to be busier, reach more people, be ever more sustainable, less worried about the ups and downs, able to eventually hire more punks–yes. But remembering that this is always, always a path of service, a labor of love, a chance to refocus our attention.

3700 times last year. People walked in our door needing something to be different: less pain, less stress, more sleep, help getting pregnant, moving through menopause a little more easily, through grief, depression, worry, fatigue, debilitating migraine or worry or inability to walk straight or put weight on that foot or have that forearm stop burning or their fingers to have feeling again, the feeling of taking a full deep breathe after days and nights of wheezing, waking up after a full night’s rest, wanting to avoid screaming at something, someone, to stop screaming at oneself, needing a good laugh, a commiserating nod, a rest, a hug, a place to come back to.
3700 times (or 10,605 times or 1231, or 6735 or 750 or 326 or at least 242,013 times in CA clinics all over the country) you came and shared your pain, discomfort, fears, progress, backsteps, celebrations, transitions, and day to day with us. You let us in.

You trusted us, and moved into a space of beginning, willing to have a new experience. We brought our best, we trusted our hearts and hands and heads, we each did our own kind of prayer with every needle. We got more confident, smoother, more efficient, hopefully a lot better, and had more time to visit with you and hear you in your regular world voice, talk about your regular life, how this condition was affecting it, how it could be different with a little more of the right kind of energy. We watched you coming in and out of our door, going out there and keeping together marriages, families, jobs, projects, psyches. Finding energy to build things, create things, inspire others and participate in lifelong dreams or hit the road to new horizons, finally.

Some of you—hopefully many–felt different ly when you walked back out the door. It may have lasted days or weeks or only hours or minutes, but it was a window, a possibility, an opportunity. Some of you never came back, wasn’t the right fit, found something or someone that was. Some of you, with great surprise, and often after really trying to insist that we must want to discuss obscure or esoteric understandings of it, found out that we actually find a lot of acu talk pretentious and often boring but anyway, luckily, mostly unnecessary for helping make it possible for your body to do the real work of it. Others came back again and again, even through skepticism or downright disbelief at the results, or with complete faith or the strength of a last hope. And we’re looking back one year later and none of us is the same. All about effecting change.

When you asked us, (which you did all the time), we shared our lives with you, the ups and downs of the clinic, our hopes and challenges and joys. As Dana mentioned, we giggled a lot! And snored and whispered and squeezed out tears, held hands, shook hands, hugged, fist pumped, cheered. 3700 times of words exchanged, fingers on metal and skin, closed eyes, soft blankets, surprisingly long, restful repose. A different way of walking, a slower voice, a re-alignment, a new thought, new connection.

Some of you heard about acupuncture for the first time, or came after having it for years. But it was new for all of us this way, with chairs, in groups, affordable enough to keep coming, see progress, build community. And we’ve shown each other that there is no need for doubt. This baby flies after all.

And as Diana said, we never once had to feel plagued by the nagging guilt of having to “sell” healthcare. Being able to just say “yes” to treating whoever says they need it, because it should just BE that easy and it’s why it’s called “care!” and because the only way we change anything is by doing it. Over and over again, and in groups, and as part of something within and also much, much larger than ourselves.

Author: melissa

Found community acupuncture in my last year of acupuncture school and it was like cool water on the dry desert of aculand. It addressed all those nagging questions of how to make acupuncture accessible and inviting to people like me, in my own communities as well as actually make a living and I knew I would practice this way for the rest of my life. I have learned more (about acupuncture, about people and community, about myself) in the past few years of running a CA clinic and being an acupunk at another BDC clinic than ever before. It's one of my all-time favorite places to be. I am eternally grateful to this community for its welcoming support, its passionate determination and its irreverence for useless sacred cows. I look forward to our continued work in supporting community acupuncture clinics worldwide!

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  1. domino

    One of my very favorite blog entries. I love your 3rd paragraph list of patient reasons for coming. Says SO much more than, like, the NIH list of symptoms with which acupuncture is “proven” to help.

    I’ve been really reviewing our first few years in Philly and your reflections are right on.

  2. Exactly.

    Not having to sell, but to just say yes.  That’s the CA attraction in a nutshell.

    Not that I don’t have to market, promote, introduce, educate.  But I don’t have to sell.  Not myself, not something someone might not be able to afford, not something they might not want.  It’s made acupuncture fun again.