Just thinking about how lucky we are…

I’ve been working lately with a very talented rolfer/cranio-sacral therapist who has taken her work to the level of art.She disappears into her work when the client is on the table, and loses all track of time when working.She is gentle, yet persistent, and rejoices and celebrates whenever her fingers feel an engagement during the movement.I find her work quite amazing, and yet here she is, after 20 years of honing her craft and studying with the giants in her profession, still struggling to pay basic bills and sharing a room with other practitioners.

I’ve also been trading with a hairstylist whose sunny disposition and sense of humor give her clients an extra treat while being cared for under her expert, experienced hands.Her landlord has just raised the rent on all the stylists in the salon, and she’s had to grit her teeth, tighten her belt, and figure out how to bring in more business to cover her expenses.

Both of these small business owners don’t charge astronomical prices, and they work hard for their dollars.Yet most people on limited incomes cannot afford their services.They themselves could not regularly afford their services at current prices, either.I feel for them.It wasn’t that long ago that I had to live like that.When I reflect on how easy it was for us, as CAPs, to switch from one-on-one/expensive to multiple/affordable because the needles do most of the work (not our hands), I am filled with gratitude.The nature of our medicine made it possible for us to make our services affordable.

This morning I met a man who does hauling (two trucks and a worker) for a living.He looks like he is in his mid-to-late 50’s, and I’m willing to bet he doesn’t have health insurance.How much longer can he afford to live and work like this?I began envisioning possibilities: his business aligning with local architects, interior designers and residential contractors, so that they could all use each others’ services and support each others’ businesses, not only with referrals, but perhaps developing an extensive network that spreads out to include the entire geographic community. He wasn’t very inspired when he heard me saythat.

What will become of all those services (besides CAPs) as population income continues to plummet?I can’t think of a way for them to make their services affordable except by simply lowering their prices and working longer and harder, which isn’t much of a solution.I really can’t think of a solution within our current economic system.Something is telling me that a completely new paradigm of economics is the only answer, one that incorporates intense community organization and commitment.

It’s hard not be excited about our work.I got excited about this 2 years ago, and I still get revved up, talking about it.Somehow, we were in the right place at the right time.I realize now that I don’t feel so bad about missing out of this for years.Maybe the timing was perfect, and us being acupuncturists made us perfectly poised to take advantage of a developing mass consciousness of social needs.I’m thrilled to have found a solution to my problems as an old-style (American) acupunk.But that isn’t enough, is it?It’s hard not to feel almost militant about what’s coming, not to imagine that more CA clinics is going to create an army of independent needlers that will change the world.As I see this, I feel something rise up in me, but I don’t know what to call it. Believing that a sea change must occur before our visions are embraced globally, I feel more like the gardener getting ready to go out and weed the garden so that the really precious plants can find fulfillment.Or having a hearty breakfast in the morning, preparing to clean out a closet that hasn’t been organized in ten years.This is work that needs to be done, for all humanity.I can tell you that what I think gives our CAN project so much emotional energy is the knowledge that we are doing this together.Those three workers that I described, they’re all alone in their businesses.They have friends, they have colleagues, but they’re working alone.We have clinics of our own, many of us have no partners, but we’re not alone.I believe that we’re so tied together, if something happened to one of us, the others would move in to help.That’s what happened in Austin.That’s what happened to Tatyana when she lost her clinic space.Those are only 2 examples among others.

Let’s continue to reach out and keep in touch with our regional CANers, partly to let them know that we’re here for them, and partly to keep them in the net so they can support us, too.On that note, I think I’m getting a chance to visit Jessica in Frederick, M.D., and Lisa Marie in Gaitherburg this week!I may have a report when I get back.

Author: lumiel

I earned a B.A. in Hotel/Restaurant Admin, but soon realized that I wanted to do something more meaningful.  Became interested in nutrition and education when pregnant with my first child. Interest in health led me to becoming a foot reflexologist, which led to a massage practice and suddenly discovering the love of my life: Chinese medicine! Practicing for 18 years, Hawaiian/Californian, acu-educated PCOM San Diego/OCOM Portland. Started my CAP in <a href="https://www.communityacu.com/" target="_blank">San Rafael</a>, Marin County, July 4, 2006, even while earning my doctorate at OCOM.  This didn't seem to make sense, but it was my way of comparing the old way of practicing acupuncture to a simpler, truer expression of what I had learned in school.  I love it. And I love being a part of this grand movement to change the world by being true to our conscience. Reopened all over again when I moved to a place where no one had ever heard of me. 3 months open so far, and just beginning to meet expenses. I have no doubt this will succeed and I will be hiring by next year.

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  1. Wow Lumiel I love, love,

    Wow Lumiel I love, love, LOVE your post!  It is very easy to get caught up in the building of our clinics and not realize just how damn lucky we are in this amazing opportunity, and really if you think about it, just how easy it is to make it work. 

    I have been thinking big lately and about just how far we can take this model. My best friend is in midwifery school and we are discussing how to do midwifery sliding scale.  She obviously can’t help four women give birth at the same time and logically by the time you count all of the prenatal visits, birth supplies, etc a midwife really only makes a few bucks per visit.  Seems pretty impossible to do “community” midwifery.  But alas with lots of brainstorming with her “community lovin’-Im gonna change the world if its the last thing I do- or at least my town damnit-friend”, we came up with the idea of community prenatal visits.  I won’t go into specifics because it is out of the scope here, but I do think if we and others think outside the box there are solutions.  The key is getting people to realize they can think outside that box and then actually doing it.  I not only want to do my part in changing health care but I want to see other professions due their part in making this world more viable and I hope I inspire some change.  Change is hard and it is much easier to just say this all sucks.  I refuse to give into that crap.  The road less travelled is not always harder and sometimes it is a heck of a lot more fun.

  2. Good post, Lumiel. Part of

    Good post, Lumiel. Part of what you wrote reminded me of an article in the current Newsweek magazine, about how the auto industry is changing to one of selling less expensive cars, lower profit per car but at a higher volume. Similar to the CA business — affordable to more people, with a higher number of patients treated.

  3. from WCA’s inbox — how timely!

    working class acupuncture folks-


    wow!  i just have been looking over your website and watched the videos on google video and am so inspired!  a friend of mine who is an acupuncture student has been talking about y’all for a while now so i finally checked your website.  as a new practitioner in another ’boutique’ field- homebirth midwifery- who dreams of community midwifery, i feel encouraged and exited by your model and spirit.  i love your head on challenge to the momentum in the field to seek validation from biomedicine and from high prices, and your refusal to jump into the pitfalls of insurance reimbursement.  thanks so much for all you do, and please add me to your email list if you have one.


    in healing and solidarity

    sarah d.

  4. group health care models

    Community midwifery is totally possible- as are many other forms of community health care. Yeah, y’all acupuncturists seem to be lucky in the fast-and-high-volume-but-still-quality department, but group health care can keep costs down for other practitioners. Myself and other new midwives in my town are working on ways to build our practices with sliding scales. We’re all very attracted to group prenatal and other health care. Check out the Centering Healthcare Institute which works on models of group health care. http://www.centeringpregnancy.com They are having a group healthcare national conference in September, does anyone who does community acupuncture know about that? Rock on y’all acupuncturists…
    ps I’d love to brainstorm with your midwife friend- sarah@davisworld.com