Love. Love. Love. Our first month’s progress report.

Hi everyone,

I’ve been working on this blog for
days now. I apologize that it’s going to be a long one. I’ll get brief in
future posts, I promise. It’s been hard to sum up all that’s happened in our first
month and a half: opening party, first amazing, amazing free day
(highlights below but just know that once you do one of these, you can never,
ever turn back…). We’ve had great days, and we’ve had hard days. The thing is,
CA just doesn’t lend itself to bulleted lists. (I tried that for our opening
party—more on that later). I’ve also gone around and around on the title for
this blog: Love is the Drug, Love and Fear, Ain’t nothin’ but a love thing….
I’ve tried to make it a little funny or a little pun-y (more fun with that
later, too) but it just keeps coming back to L-O-V-E, the really big kind. And
it makes me want to cry and dance around with joy from the sheer grace of it
all. So, there, I’ve said it. Maybe we’re afraid to say it too much around here
because we don’t want to scare people away or make them think we are crazy.
Please know that I can be one of the most cynical people you will ever know,
and I’ve got plenty of righteous rants inside me, too. But more and more it
becomes undeniable in my life that it is all really about love. We can say it’s
about running a business. We can say it’s about practicing medicine. We can say
it’s about whatever we got into it for, and it is all those things—and
it is also undeniably about love. So I’m okay to be the one to say it here ad
nauseum. The thing that’s sustaining me and I believe most anyone who is doing
CA, is love. So, this may be a very corny blog. It may seem a little woo woo to
some. Turn around now if you need to, because this stuff can change your
life—and you’ll never want to do anything else again.


We opened January 6. Our first week
was slow and exciting. Our clinic is located in the Second St studios—a
grouping of several loft style buildings with offices, some live/work space—a
popular local pizza place as the street landmark and the offices of Mothering
magazine. We did a free day for our neighbors on the first Friday. We treated
about six people. My favorite, though, was P. I had been doing the cold-call
flyering a few days before and stopped into his woodshop. He was on the phone but waved me in,
while he finished up. He apologized, explaining that he was coordinating with
his family in another state because his mom was in the end stages of hospice.
We talked acupuncture, and he told me about his Mom, and how his family was
coming together in their care for her, and how he could feel he needed a little
self-care. I left after 45 minutes. He was there right at ten on the free day.
As he was coming in, he shared that his mother had died the night before. We hugged.
He relaxed in the chair for almost an hour, feeling waves of grief and relief
and finally falling into rest. He came back once more before traveling to his
hometown for the services for his mom. He told me about the beautiful heartwood
box he had made for her ashes and when I came through to check on him later, he
was resting with eyes closed but I could see him mouthing some words, perhaps
chanting, I thought. He told me later that he was reciting his mother’s eulogy;
he could just feel it coming through. Love, love, love.

Our first paying patient L., (do we
take her picture and mount it with the dollar?) with frozen shoulder for
months, on disability from her job, unable to paint—her real life’s passion.
Kelly treated her and she felt better that same night—has been coming
faithfully…has been able to draw again.

One of our other neighbors is a
psychotherapist. After her treatment, she shared that she loved the space and
the concept, that the main theme from all of her patients in the past months
has been a sense of isolation. She loved the idea of sending them to our
community. We need each other, she said. There are many other stories for
future blogs: Lots of shoulder pain, lots of grief and loss, and opening up.

We had our grand opening party on
Jan 16th. We had beverages and the most beautiful party spread
you’ve ever seen, courtesy of Kelly and mostly Kathy, her mom, the one-woman
wonder crew. I think people will always come back just hoping for some more
family recipe horseradish dip and fruit kabobs. We had visits from many friends
and well wishers and some fellow SWAC students, two of whom, as Kelly mentioned
in her post, gave us a generous gift to outfit the clinic and saw our wish list
and promised us a laptop! One of our other friends offered her time for
accounting services and QuickBooks set-up. We had two former professors and
colleagues, one of whom had already made referrals to us, the other Kelly’s
Hari mentor, knowing how much she had loved it but giving her the loving sendoff
into CA style.

We even got to meet the owner of the
other CA clinic in town. This one had been a rollercoaster for us to find out
the previous week that another clinic was opening in our town in the very same
week. Kelly and I had tagged-teamed overnight freak outs and then had to laugh
at ourselves: prayer answered, I guess, walk your talk, “lots and lots of
people getting lots and lots of acupuncture!” Turns out, we loved meeting her
and talked about just spreading the gospel together. Whew! We had a visit from
a reporter from one of the local free papers, asking to do an interview with us
during the party—the editor had sent her to get the story. It ran the next
week, I’m including a file here, there is no on-line link, unfortunately. Funny
photo, though!     

The next day was the ONE, though,
the free day. I will say this right at the beginning: have a free day
immediately. We treated 35 people in 4-½ hrs—not nearly the numbers we were
hoping for but the clinic was full the entire time, a few times with people
waiting patiently for chairs. They showed up early, like at a yard sale—before
our posted opening time we had four people in chairs. It was heaven. Really,
you just fall into the most delicious groove: meeting people, needling, moving
to next patient, checking the room, taking needles out, fluffing, we just
worked effortlessly together. Occasionally, we stepped out into our little
waiting area and jumped up and down crying with glee. We had parents and
kids, couples on dates, many folks who had never had acupuncture before, a few
with very serious health problems and no insurance, several just jazzed about
anything community. Some stayed for only thirty minutes, others snoozed for
over an hour. And best of all—every single patient hugged one of us on the way
out. I’m not kidding. It was jubilant in there all day long. People feel great
and are excited when they leave—they are coming back, they will help spread the
word, they say, thank you so much. Free day = getting paid in hugs.

Perhaps our greatest joy of that day,
though, was watching our SWAC student receptionist witness the unfolding (or
was that us witnessing her unfolding?). She began the day telling us that she
was excited to help us and that this style probably wasn’t for her but she just
wanted to be supportive of us. We had considered really carefully who we wanted
this person to be—the first one to greet each person through the door, should
be the right mix of sparkle and efficiency, we figured. I had printed out the
for her, just figuring she should have the first taste, but was only
able to get it to her that morning—no time to look at it then. As the day went
on, and the people kept coming and the hugs kept happening, the wonder started
to spill out of her—she insisted we better put some tissues out there, and I
could hear her by the end of the day going beyond the little welcome
explanation and preaching the CA gospel. Can we get an Amen! You will now know
her as one of CAN’s newest members “Rachel “yeswecan” Ropp–on her way to the
conference in Tucson. Love, love, love.

My assignment the night before the
party was to come up with a bulleted list for the free day—something that
people could take with them, explaining the main points of who we are and why.
I’m telling you, I struggled with this for like three hours. I finally decided
that what it came down to was that I was just too in my heart right then, on
the threshold of it all. I decided that what we love about CA and what our
patients were going to love about it is exactly that, the heart, the intangible, the community. So I wrote
that–it came in about 20 minutes–we wrapped it up like a scroll with ribbon
and gave it to everyone at our party and free day, on the way out, like a party
favor. We now give it to every patient on their first visit as they are leaving. We just start calling it “the scroll,” or our love letter to the
community. I’m attaching it here, with huge, grateful credit to Lisa from the

The next few weeks were
depressingly slow. We worried. We kept pushing along, creating flyers—Kelly is
quite a clever little ad wonder! —And putting them EVERYWHERE. And then people
just started calling, and coming, and coming back. We paid our rent by the end
of the month, which at $1400, we think is pretty great. We’re on target to pay
next month’s by the end of this week. We’re still at about half what we need to
be in line with our business plan, and we have not paid ourselves yet (I know
all you newbies, that’s what you’re wondering…) but I’m confident we will soon.
And you know what? I am happier than I have ever been. I have that kind of
fullness feeling you get when things are just right, and you’re doing it, and
you know it. It’s building. And it’s going to fly–we can just feel it.

I have a tattoo on my back from
many years ago. It’s the long waving line of my life crossed by shorter lines
of love and fear. I got it to remind myself that all things come down to one or
the other—try to keep love out front. I had a discussion with Kelly on one of
our down days. She worries about me because I am single and working another job
still and have pretty much exhausted my resources. And I’ll tell you what I
told her. There’s no going back for me. When I first began clinic in school, I
remember instantly falling in love with my patients. To the point that I would
take on their symptoms (hmm, left-sided eye pain, weird…) I remember having a few
discussions about it with other practitioners and professors in classes and
being advised that I needed to be very, very careful. I needed to learn to
shield myself, not get emotionally involved, protect my own health, etc. I
struggled with it. I guess it makes sense in some ways, I thought. But finally,
I secretly decided that I would work out the symptom thing somehow, and I was
just going to keep falling in love with my patients no matter what anyone said.
And now the secret is out. Kelly told me the other day that she’s not sure if
it was school stress or what, but lately she is able to really see the many
faceted beauty and goodness of people all over the place, all the time. So this
is what I’m going to be doing for a very, very long time. Somehow, some way.
Worst-case scenarios don’t scare me. If I have to move out of my house and live
in a tent, and I can still get to the clinic, I’ll be doing this every day. If
this doesn’t work out—which it will- I will just move somewhere else and ask
one of you to work in one of your clinics and I will be a happy little clam.
Because I am in love with my patients. I am in love with my work. I am in love
with what this brings into my life, and what I get to share in the lives of
others. Because LOVE is bigger than fear.

Lastly for today, I offer you a blessing that was shared with us back in Nov., when we really weren’t sure we’d be able to get the clinic going. it went out on an on-line prayer community I am a part of and came back from a total stranger from there. Blessings on all of you, keep on needling folks, loving them and breathing light.


Practical tips:


Flyer before your clinic is even open. As soon as you have
an address and phone number, get the buzz rolling. People are just showing up
now who say they saw our ad or flyer in December. Flyering can change your whole day–it gets you meeting  people, they get excited, you get excited and personal connection is where it’s at. It’s especially fun for a free day because people feel like you came directly to them to give them something cool–acu-Santa!


Send press releases to every news outlet in your surrounding
area. Follow up with phone calls to editors. It’s the perfect story for the
times—ours ran in the business section.


Have a free day immediately! If the above doesn’t
convince you, let me just say it again: you will see your clinic full, know
what your future holds and know that you made the right choice; you will treat
more people than you thought you could, so that fear is poof–gone; you will
get paid in hugs, laugh, jump up and down, cry like a baby and sleep like a
log.The only way your patients really
“get it” is to see the space, feel a treatment, fall asleep in a cushy
recliner—they’re never goin’ back to tables. As Keith says, get the peeps in
the chairs! Our next one is Feb 28th—targeted at restaurant worker

Do not underestimate the power of freecycle and craig’s list–i think we’ve paid $200 total for 9 recliners–they seem to come in waves–none and then three all at once. just start storing things in your house, friend’s houses, whatever. we got all our office furniture from there, too. our start-up money went towards paint, a few lamps and blankets from IKEA, needles, rent and malpractice insurance.


Don’t worry about the up and down of the numbers yet—just
keep doing all the flyering, and spreading the word you can. Don’t get
discouraged about the appointment book, probably 60% of our visits right now
are from people wanting same-day appointments. we start the day with two appts and end having treated eight—and we can say “yes!” a lot.
We’re using the slow time to connect with people, get really good at giving
treatments, learn Tan stuff, work on our website, keep studying and catching up
on sleep—rebuilding our spleens post-school.

Try to laugh often during start-up–it’s tiring and stressful. And you will sleep eventually–another CANer recommends naps. It took us two weeks to get our business license. “You’re not in the system so we can’t schedule your fire inspection.” but i submitted it in person.  “oh, your suite number isn’t in so we’ll send you a fax and you can fax it back tomorrow.” wait, to enter the numbers 8 and 2??? after three more days of haggling, we finally got it and because of our ridiculously long name, it got typed in as We the People Community Acupun. So now we are the acupuns–we fell down laughing–good day.


Get rolling stools. Good for the back. Ours courtesy of our
fellow students’ gift!

Put up wish lists at your party and free day. Ours are still
up and our patients keep checking them out.


I’ll share some of Kelly’s great flyers in future posts.
Feel free to use anything!



posted the links here:

More to come…

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. thanks for sharing this


    wow, sounds like a great start – you with your wide open heart and CA are meant to be together. i am happy for you and kelly! please send us some biz cards.

  2. We hold these truths to be self-evident.

    This blog post made me smile so hard.  It feels good to be on to a good thing, huh?  Keep up the good work.

    And I loved the news article’s lede:

    “In order to form a more perfect

    union of community and good health…”  What’s one without the other, after all?

  3. thank you

    that is the only Valentine I’ll be needing today…

    and another great thing about this particular love affair is that it doesn’t wear off like romances are supposed to. I STILL feel the same way about my patients as you do, the only difference is that I’m not as surprised by it as I used to be. It’s funny, because I was having a conversation with somebody about burned-out senior acupuncturists last week, describing a particular (boutique) acupuncturist who was conventionally successful but just exhausted and miserable, and I was remembering another burned-out senior acupuncturist who told me bitterly, “nobody lasts more than ten years in this field”(because dealing with patients is so draining) …it was about ten years ago that she said that to me…and then also last week, I treated my patient who I first met when I was an intern at OCOM, and I realized that I have been treating him semi-regularly for over fifteen years now…and I really, truly have no idea what those burned-out senior acupuncturists are talking about. My patients are LOVELY. They are a reliable happiness for me. What would I do without them? I’m actually doing regular housecalls right now for one of my (formerly regular) patients who can no longer come into the clinic, because she is 86 years old, with terrible arthritis and scoliosis, and she’s dying slowly of old age. She can barely move. The acupuncture helps somewhat with her pain, but the real reason for the housecalls is that I just couldn’t stand the thought of not seeing her anymore. Obviously at some point I won’t be seeing her anymore (she keeps cheerfully reminding me that everybody in her family dies between Christmas Eve and St. Patrick’s Day) but I’m not willing to let our relationship end prematurely if I can help it. I’m pretty sure that I am getting more out of those housecalls than she is.

    I guess you get to choose between burn-out, which people readily understand, and being a love freak, which many people don’t; a choice between being bitter (and normal) and being really weird (and really happy). I’ll take the misunderstandings, the fabulous patients, and all of you, my fellow crazies in this Big Love that is, apparently, community acupuncture. Gladly. 

  4. Loved Loved Loved! your

    Loved Loved Loved! your blog, Melissa!

    I am so grateful to have been a volunteer on your first free day. As you describe your experience I think of mine that day – I most definitely received far more than I gave. The combination of your and Kelly’s enthusiasm and the parade of patients showering the two of you with thanks, hugs, tears of gratitude set me on a course.

    I’m writing my business plan for my Practice Management class CA style and I’m on my way to Tuscon!

    Love, Love, Love! and MUCHISIMAS GRACIAS!


  5. Perfect timing!

    We just set an appointment with our commercial real estate guy to put in a Letter of Intent on a groovy space here in Berkeley for a big ole CA space!  Something led me to your blog, Melissa, and I smiled the entire time I read through it!  I am forwarding it to the two goddesses who are doing this gig with me.  We’re thinking of calling it Acupuncture Oasis bc we want it to be an oasis from everything stressful about life and an affirmation of everything yummy.  Today we talked about how to keep it filled with love and community and abundance and everything that you showered us with in your recollection of your opening days.  Congratulations on your certain success and thanks for sharing your bliss.

    blessings galore,


  6. Love, Love, Love

    Melissa…you are the “Cats PJ’s”!  Thanks for sharing the Love.  With 2 semesters yet to go, all the info on this network is keeping my head above the clouds…can’t wait for my turn!


  7. hooray! good luck!

    congratulations on the rest of your life! good luck with everything. get as much help with startup as you can, try to get some rest wherever you can grab it and enjoy the excitement. feel free to call on us for any help we can offer! sharing the bliss is where it’s at 🙂



    Good health is not a measure of adapting to a sick society.

    When the power of love outshines the love of power, the world will know peace.

  8. thanks, you CA warrior!

     hi marguerite,

    heard your presentation was fantastic. sounds like you reached all the right people. and your turn is going to be such a blast–you being fully your badass, loving, sparkling self unleashed in the world is going to be a big dose of Love and patients are gonna sorround you! hang in there and come for some acupuncture if you’re in sf!



    Good health is not a measure of adapting to a sick society.

    When the power of love outshines the love of power, the world will know peace.