Grand Central Station Community Acupuncture

While thinking about Tungsten and the capacities of the heart, I wrote this last week. 

I'm on a train, from New York to Providence, after a week of being on subway and commuter trains in NYC and Westchester and Brooklyn, visiting family. Now I'm on an Amtrak, watching the rails go by, and row houses, bare winter trees and heavy-coated pedestrians, wandering the edge of town.

I love the train because it is so much more interesting than traveling by car. On a highway, you see only the taillights of the cars in front of you, the featureless pavement, maybe some trees. On a train, especially a rush-hour 4 train headed downtown, you see the incredible variety of the human face, the ease with which hundreds of people will arrange themselves on a platform to squeeze into a crowded car, the way you can find the space to shift yourself and your eight-year-old through the car back to the door when your stop approaches.

People on the train face each other; they don't chat and make friends (the social pressure with having to interact meaningfully with everyone you see in a city of 8 million people would be unbearable), but they acknowledge one another; they are easy around each other. In the stations, they step around and aside each other, and avoid what seem to be inevitable collisions by intuitively sensing the strides of everyone coming toward them.

Commuting by subway during rush hour in NYC, something millions of people do with ease every single day, seems to me to be very similar to practicing community acupuncture in a busy clinic. This is no Sunday stroll, alone, alongside a lake or through a hiking trail in the woods; no lengthy intake, no pondering points. This is Grand Central Terminal, or Union Square station. You feel a pulse, reach for needles while your eyes sweep the room, nod at the ready person in the corner as you place points swiftly on your current patient, rise and pull the crumpled blanket on the next chair smooth, before your hands reach calmly for the finished needles here, the cotton ball there. A glance at the clock and a quick whispered conversation while you assess: she is sleeping, good, he looks restless and ready, they are late but you'll fit them in after the new patient still filling out paperwork.

In this station, your sense of self is as big as the room, as broad and all-encompassing. You're connected but not exclusive, easily including every person there: the regulars and drop-ins, the easygoing and demanding, all the same to you, all equal to each other. All moving at their own pace through the same station, all passengers traveling by the same train.

Author: Demetra

I live in San Francisco but I'm from New York, and apparently it shows. I come from a family with some members who have had very troubling illnesses, and I found my way to acupuncture in trying to figure out how to help. My father's illness cost him his small business, his savings, his house, and ultimately his life. I viscerally believe that healthcare should never, ever be limited to those few with money to spare. I see every day how the practice of affordable, community acupuncture can honestly heal the world. I feel a moral and ethical responsibility to do everything I can to make this gentle, powerful community medicine available to everyone.

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