Love to Work, Work to Love

One of my teachers at acu-school told us that his teacher used to place the needles and then pray for all of his patients.  Miriam Lee, rest in peace,  talks about this in her book Insights of a Senior Acupuncturist in the chapter called “Technique & Intention: Getting Patients Well.”  She writes:

People ask me, “Do you teach everything you know or do you keep some technique secret?” I have no hesitation to answer,”I hide nothing.” To practice acupuncture you must be certain of your intention, your purpose in doing so.  It can be done for fame or wealth, to cure or to kill. If the intention is wrong, if you are concentrating onearning money, treating fewer patients and charging higher fees, doing little for much profit, you may get some results from your treatments or you may not….I have a good feeling towards the patients. The intention I have for them to get well travels, as a wave travels on the sea, from me to them through the needles and through my voice and eyes and hands. I use my qi very consciously in a special way to do this…It is all myqi marshaled to meet their own intention to get well…

What these teachers are talking about is loving to work and working to love.

I love my job.  I love working in a community setting, I love the hours that I work and don’t work.  I love the crazy calmness, and overflowing stillness of having a full schedule at the clinic.  I love the community of community acu-punks, and how we support and remind each other that our fears and worries need not paralyze us or consume us.  I love the synchronistic

ways that things line up around the growth and expansion of our clinics.  I love the people I work with.  I love the creativity that pours out of each of us as we take this beautiful, simple, focused approach to helping people, and mold it into  physical spaces, with adaptable systems, and human being-ness. I love my work, and I work to love. 

I also love my patients, all of them.  That’s right, I love my patients, each and every one of them for who they are.  Why?  Because that is my job, and it is why I love my job;  because my job is to hold that space and openness for the hope and healing of each and every person who comes for treatment. 

It has only recently occurred to me that what I am doing as I focus intently on each person I treat is that I am loving and accepting them as they are.  I am witnessing their perfection married to the certainty of their eventual physical demise.  I am holding the door open to a realm of non-physicality where there is room for hope or the possibility of change.  I am doing all of this at once  as I take a pulse, open a packet of needles, and chat about their pain, their vacation, their child, or their bowel movements.  I know that those concerned with the nearness of boundaries, and possible crossings would find admission to loving my patients much to risky on that *slippery slope,* but hey they’re not standing in my shoes. 

Let me be clear, I am not flirting with,seducing, coming onto, lecturing, instructing, chastising, or advising my patients, or any other myriad things that are mistaken for love.  Before and as I needle them, I am listening deeply to what they tell me, and I am keeping my heart as open as I can.  It isn’t always easy, but even if it happens for just a moment, in that moment, something  else becomes possible that has nothing to do with my needling techniques, any specialty training, my ego’s sense of *my role as a healer* or anything else.  This is not *ME* *special ME* loving them, this is both of us being in the realm of love, because I believe more than time, love heals all.   

Ellen, one of the people I love and work with and work and love with, in addition to working at PCA, and getting treated at PCA, is attending school to become a holistic counselor.  Below is a part of a paper she recently wrote for a class.  I want to share it because I love the perspectives it gives of love in a healing relationship.

Guest blog from Ellen@PCA– 

(From a journal entry, November 2008)

I had a session this morning with my therapist. He and I have been working together for about half a year, and today I noticed, again, my tendency to look him directly in the eye while we are talking. And not only while we are talking, but also when we are not, when I am immersed in a feeling, or go missing inside a fear, or am trying to sort through a difficult swell of my history, his face is the place I anchor, a focal point when I feel dizzy. I stare into his face, now so familiar, for nearly the whole session, and he stares right back at me, and there is a particular way in which we penetrate one another during that time. 

I’m not sure when we started this, it may have been from our very first meeting, but it has never felt scary or uncomfortable (the way I think it would when I hear myself describe it), and I am not usually even aware that its happening. This thing that we do – sitting there, staring at each other, collaborating on the project of me – gives me tremendous comfort and insight. When I go searching in the dark for a way to navigate, there is a beacon, and I have come to rely on its presence and guidance. Its beam has, by now, filtered down to illuminate the very fiber of my being, and has caused its weft – this brittle, ancient fabric that has known no light — to let loose in its presence. And so goes my reweaving, my filaments realigning within an emergent whole. This person across from me, my co-weaver, whose full attention I command for just a little while each week, has also woven part of himself into the fabric, his thread a kind of spirit guide that I can tug upon when I feel lost.

Within the vessel of our work the limits are clear, and it’s certainly due to the soundness of their structure that whatever it is that flows between us can flow as freely as it does. Yet within these confines, ours is nothing more, or less, than a deep exchange between two people, and this giving of self, though unequal in form and content, is nonetheless equal in volume. The boundaries are differently arrayed — mine as laid to the side as I can manage, his a one-way mirror in which I see only me – but we are of equal presence in our separate roles. In giving ourselves to one another in this way, we engage in the construction of something that seems to be both health and art. It can be beautiful, that much I know, at once a confirmation of the wonder of being and the creation of a narrative that is very much like the unfolding of a poem. 

I had occasion recently to question the genuineness of our connection. I became suddenly aware of the degree to which the relationship was manufactured, which made it seem cheap and hollow. I was scared to trust it and was then more scared to realize how much I needed it. I was, rather abruptly, profoundly aware of how essential this person had become to me and I felt a familiar panic of needing someone whom I was afraid to trust. At some point within the fog of my distress, I recognized that the feeling I most deeply feel for my therapist, to whom I weekly commend my gut, is nothing more or less than love, with all its attendant fears of loss. It is that union of appreciation and need and trust and tender fear (and disapproval and repellence and anger – if you have been me, though not in this case) that is the very essence of love. And while the idea of loving my therapist at first seemed frighteningly taboo (as well as dreadfully pedestrian, as in “oh no, I have fallen in love with my therapist”), it soon occurred to me that this might well be what I was supposed to be feeling. That this, perhaps, might be the whole point. Not to have me love him, but to have love engendered in our work together, out of which more of me can grow. Once I saw it this way, both the mood of taboo and the fear of loss easily receded. But not before I was offered a quick insight. Which was that my therapist loves me back. 

*  *  *  *  *  *  *  *


This is an exploration of love and therapy. 

In speaking about love in a therapeutic setting, I am clearly speaking of a particular kind of love. It is idealized, it doesn’t require much in return, and there is a mythic, transcendent quality to it — Love, not love. But there is no better name for it, nonetheless, and I am not the first to notice this. In addition to all the things it is known to be, love can be an energy of incredible potency. When focused with intention, this energy can be offered into a system and can, through its mere presence, effect change, not by bullying new organization, but by extending an invitation to dance. When we open ourselves with loving intent, we are saying: “Come dance with me a while.” 

Love is not often called love in professional circles – its called an incredible number of other things, in fact. There seems to be an unwritten prohibition against using the word in the context of therapeutic convention, both in talk therapies and in bodywork. The word is bound in our language and thought with sex. It is confused with narcissistic projection and, at the same time, overlooked as the universal phenomenon that binds us in communion to one another, and to all life. It evokes the worst aspects of transference and counter-transference, those inevitabilities so often cast as clinical inconveniences, as if we don’t already interpenetrate one another through the much simpler act of our co-existence. Somehow, in our zeal for individuation, we seem to have neglected due diligence towards this most basic stuff of our humanness. 

Yet, at its very essence, this could be what we are doing in a healing relationship, and its possible that it is even all that we are doing. All, in both the simplest sense and in the most expansive. Recent research suggests what has long been known – that people can be healed through love. There is a positive physiological and psycho-spiritual correlation between perceptions of empathy/intimacy/connection/communion and therapeutic outcome. Call it what you will, we can and do facilitate healing in clients through loving them, and they, in turn, love us back — maybe not in ways we like, but in whatever ways they can. And in loving, there is movement, and in movement, growth. This is not to diminish the necessity of that co-essential ingredient, therapeutic skill. This is to suggest that the skill of therapeutic intervention – in whatever form it takes – must, to be most effective, be cultured in a medium of love. The energy of love can be made manifest through as many techniques and styles as there are therapies and therapists, but as spirit guides within a client’s being, we illumine the way with nothing less. 

(end of Ellen’s blog) 

I absolutely love the part where she suggests that ALL we are doing in the therapeutic relationship is loving, but in the largest and smallest sense of the world ALL… 

Author: crismonteiro

I've always thought that I would live to be 100 years old and now that I have an actual idea of what it might be like to inhabit this body for a century I want to be damn sure that Community Acupuncture is around to help me through my days and in the end, on my way. In the meantime, I am passionate about getting shit done, and also having fun.

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  1. and I love this post.

    “You know how people always say there’s a reasonable explanation for things like this? Well, there isn’t.” Daniel Pinkwater, The Neddiad