In Praise of Community Qi

I got to work today in a funk. Nothing terribly specific – a mix of “Ugh, another grey day, this does not feel like mid-June” and building stress around my impending move, and being underslept. I wasn't upset enough to have a cry about it and feel better, either – I was just agitated and feeling low.

I walked into Poke, glanced at the schedule for the afternoon shift, walked through the full treatment room to the back, hung up my jacket and noticed two things. First was that my mood had abruptly lifted. Second was that there were some loud noises coming from outside. Two guys were yelling mingled encouragement and friendly verbal abuse at each other as one backed up a large, beeping truck and the other helped him angle the vehicle. This went on for an hour. Also, seperately, some people were alternating between vigorous hammering and running what must've been a circular saw, directly outside and downstairs from the treatment room. This went on until an hour after my last patient went to sleep.

Yep, they went to sleep. Four people commented after I took their needles out that they couldn't believe they slept through that. The last two people to leave said wistfully “I could have stayed here all night, but I have to go home.”

Community qi rocks my world so damn hard. It's the main reason, I think, that so many slept today. It's one of the main reasons that this little clinic at one of Vancouver's busiest intersections is one of my favourite places to be on a day off. I have never, ever, worked a busy community acupuncture shift without feeling soothed, held, and carried along by the community qi. In tough times I absolutely rely on it. I've had the deepest rests of my life at Poke.

Just for fun, I've started a list of things that I or my patients have slept through in a community acupuncture setting:

  • The phone book delivery person walking into the treatment room, saying “Hello?? Here is your telephone book!” and thunking Vancouver's Yellow Pages down on the red rolling chair
  • Someone going into needle shock and falling from the couch into a heap, and the ensuing shuffle as my friend and I dragged her limp form up off the floor. (The one person who did wake up sleepily asked if the fainter would like a fresh orange from her bag)
  • A team of paramedics removing someone with rapidly worsening back pain from the treatment room, on a stretcher
  • About 5 million cars/buses/trucks/emergency vehicles roaring by on East Broadway  (this gets much louder on rainy days, which happen often)
  • Our sandwich board being hurled against the storefront window, day after day, by someone whom I suspect really needs acupuncture, specifically, Dr Tan's Jueyin-Shaoyang Global Balance (by the way, a hand written “Please don't throw me against the window!” on the corner of the sandwich board, accompanied by a wee heart completely ended this problem after weeks and weeks, I'm not even joking)

…What have you and your patients slept through?


Lisa B.
Author: Lisa B.

Lisa prefers fireflies to fireworks, reverts to bluntness in stressful moments, would happily wear legwarmers year-round, and probably wants to be your friend.

Related Articles

Conference Keynote: Breaking the Ceiling

The theme for this conference is “Breaking Barriers”. You know, there are so many barriers to break in acupuncture that it was really hard to choose which ones to talk about for this speech. But since I’ve spent so much time talking about classism as a barrier, I thought it might be fun to shift gears a little and talk about numbers.


  1. A SWAT team on the roof of our building. Along with the armed fugitive on the roof of the building. It was good that they slept through it because the nice people in Kevlar insisted that we lock our doors, stay away from the windows and not do anything else until they gave us the clear — so the patients couldn’t have left anyway.

    Also, crying babies.

  2. the opening party last summer from the Tattoo place across the street, complete with loudass heavy metal from a live band–for three hours.

    a full-on auto accident ten feet outside the clinic window at the corner. complete with fire truck and ambulance arriving on the scene, and blinking lights for a good 45 mins.

    today, in fact: full room, one of our older male patients starts singing along loudly to his IPOD. a few folks did look up and smile, then fall back into sleep.

    nice job on the sign intervention, btw!

  3. Omg, a SWAT team? This officially ends my cringing at the siren-blaring emergency vehicles that go up and down 34th Street all day long. We haven’t had any really unusual noise – gas powered weedwhackers, the neighbor who takes care of the parking lot trying to get his big truck started outside the back door, people who bellow at the door. I’m always nervous about it and no one ever even flinches, it’s completely amazing.

  4. “Little Greg” has a motorcycle with a crazy loud rev that he likes to circle the block with… over and over… because we share a parking lot with he and his family’s autobody shop. i seriously WISH we could say something cool like “SWAT team” but i don’t know if stuff like that happens over here in Hillsdale. 🙂 Praise the group qi, no one complains here, either, unless someone snores too loud…

  5. At our previous clinic, Roncesvalles CA, they were digging up the whole street for 1.5 yrs (almost th whole time we were there) and during that time, the landlord gutted the upstairs apartment. Once the ceiling almost caved in and the old radiators were leaking. Also, the annual air show with fighter jets doing fancy things in the sky (sounded like they would land right in our room…)

    Through all that, patients would smile and sleep and tell us how peaceful they felt here, even on the noisiest days.

    In this location, so far the loudest is the lady upstairs skipping (!)That’s besides the snoring and hard-of hearing folks who need to communicate at full volume – no separate intake room here.

  6. last summer was really noisy for us. a road crew was jackhammering the curbs out front and a constructions crew was putting in a new kitchen for the taco place next door.

    People slept through it all.

  7. “(The one person who did wake up sleepily asked if the fainter would like a fresh orange from her bag)”

    Our patients restore my faith in humanity, every day <3

  8. Hmmm…
    had a patient challenge our front desker to step outside and fight…

    crazy guy who pushed Melissa and Rachel around the reception until a patient stepped in an intervened (he pushed Melissa so hard she landed in the lap of someone waiting for a 1st time intake — she stayed and got her treatment)…

    Daily lunch truck that pulls up and plays reveille on it air horn…

    Some killer farts…

  9. I had a patient who, after the private intake and receiving my hushed instructions to turn off her cell phone before she went in, choose any chair she wanted yadda yadda, basically kicked the door open and said in a parade ground voice “OH, THERE ARE OTHER PEOPLE IN HERE!”

    No one mentioned it afterwards but I was in shock.

  10. We are on Main Street, so every funeral goes by here, most with complete noisy siren police escort, about 4-5 of them a week. One had a 200+ motorcycle escort that seemed like it would go on FOREVER.

    “OH, THERE ARE OTHER PEOPLE IN HERE” – that cracked me up!

  11. Serious road construction 4 feet from our windows. Vibrating rollers that shook the entire building so hard I thought the windows would break. During one “whispered” intake a patient shouted over the noise, “That’s really loud! I don’t think I’ll be able to relax.” And then promptly slept through it for 3 hours.

    Also the loudest snoring that you have ever heard, crying screaming and laughing babies.

    Truth is that people don’t really care. They just need some nap time.

  12. I run a community acu clinic in a hospital, and we have days where we are frequently interrupted by hospital pages. It feels like being in an episode of the tv show M*A*S*H. The page we hear most often is for “Dr. Cradle” which is code for an adult who does not have custody of a child is trying to leave the hospital with that child. So the page will say “Dr. Cradle, Greer Wing” and it will repeat for a minute, and then when it gets all sorted out we get a “Cancel Dr. Cradle.” One day a patient said to me, “I feel sorry for that poor Dr. Cradle, they just have him running all over the place all the time!”

  13. Last year just after we moved into our new space the 10,00 sq ft brick building began to be dismantled. The dismantling was quiet, the front loader smashing apart bricks and cinder blocks for a week was ground shaking. Everyone in the clinic slept through all of that. Our little building is kind of like a fortress. When they installed our sign on the outside of our building by drilling 4 anchoring holes into the cinderblock walls it sounded like a faint humming. When they smashed up the cement foundation across the street with another giant machine that dropped car sized pieces of concrete on each other to break them up, the room shook a little.

    What IS really loud in our clinic, 5 days a week are the women in clompy heels upstairs. Some people notice it, some don’t. I try to pretend it’s my great Aunt Mazy doing housework in heels in 1940.
    The upstairs people clomp around all day, up and down the stairs to our shared bathrooms where they can slam the fire door that separates the 2 parts of the building. One of our regulars offered to buy them rugs, or new shoes. So far though, upstairs has declined.

    The loudest thing we ever had was when one of our upstairs neighbors brought 2 dogs to work and the dogs charged the UPS guy on the stairs. Loud barking, UPS guy running, and dog’s person yelling something ridiculous at the top of his lungs.

    Again, most people slept through all of this.

  14. Man, if I were upstairs from someone and they told me clomping shoes were disturbing their business, I’d have carpet installed like the next freaking day. It’s just the good neighborly thing to do!

  15. It is disappointing that the upstairs neighbors seem oblivious to the noise they make when they clomp- or maybe it’s just hard to give up one’s heels for quieter shoes. What makes it a little more irritating, is that they are my landlords to boot. I’ve contacted them when specific LOUD events have occurred. For example they were hammering for about 10 minutes a month ago when they were building something for a business expo. When I called upstairs they said they were through hammering for the day.

    Kinda weird.

    I feel badly that it irritates me so much sometimes b/c I know our peeps pick up on this. Or conversely, it’s part of my everyday work environment, but our peeps come to rest and sleep.

    One day one regular wondered out loud if the upstairs neighbors know how many people are annoyed by their clomping? I smiled as the contrary thought popped in my mind: “I wonder if they feel any better with all of us down here doing all this great healing work together?”

  16. -A jackhammer going to town on the concrete balcony above our clinic.
    -The weekly leafblower all fall.
    -Someone driving a really tall truck into the previously mentioned balcony.
    -Pigeons in the vents.
    -EMTs showing up for a patient that had a seizure/black out.
    -The old guy with headphones, who cranks country music so loud I can hear it over the noise machines and our music, and then proceeds to talk to me at the top of his lungs. Just now.
    -Fights behind the bar across the parking lot.

    I do love love love how a busy shift just turns my mood around and carries me through the day.

  17. The house we are in was built in 1908, and there is a fireplace in the treatment room. I never had any intention of actually using the fireplace, being Florida and all, and because those things scare me. We moved in less than two months ago, and I assumed there was a flue in place. I was wrong. How did I discover this? A dead bird. It fell and landed in the fireplace. While people were sleeping. I just got the dustpan, scooped it up, and took it outside. One woman noticed, but didn’t seem to mind.

  18. June 30th, Ft. Knox, our neighbor across the water, is hosting the “6th Maine Battery Cannon Firings – a full scale Civil War era Parrot cannon firing demonstration will take place throughout the day. This is the real deal and will provide some explosive excitement for all who visit.” No doubt. Will report back.

  19. We’re on a tiny little connecting street, and EVERYONE in town takes it. The worst is that every ambulance uses it to cut across on – and our patients sleep through it all!