Mirror Neurons and the Benefits of Community Acupuncture

When I first started to consider practicing community acupuncture I did a lot of research on the model and sought out advice from many different community clinic acupuncturists or “punks” as we fondly refer to ourselves.  One thing, that I can't say I was surprised to note, was that most punks claim there is a heightened benefit from acupuncture treatments when their communal rooms are full due to the almost palpable group dynamic of healing. Recently Shasta Community Acupuncture has been filled to capacity three times and I surely did “geek out” about the joy and sense of deep relaxation on the faces of our patients as they walked out of the treatment room.  A few of them even exclaimed that it was the best treatment they ever had.

I am now a believer, but before I continue to rant and rave unspecifically I want to see if there are any scientific explanations for this occurrence of heightened treatment values in a group dynamic.  Albert Einstein once elaborated on his view of the interconnectivity of the universe: “A human being is a part of the whole called by us universe, a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feeling as something separated from the rest, a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.”

Speculating that the heightened group healing environment was due to a collective healing vibration that resonated throughout the room, I looked to Quantum Mechanics for an explanation.  While I found much proof in QM of interconnectivity through electromagnetic waves across the universe, unfortunately anything mentioned with relation to healing was sourced from a more mystical standpoint and I know that will not please the skeptics, so I moved to Cognitive Neuroscience for an understanding of the Mirror Neuron.  This is a neuron that fires both when someone acts and when that person observes the same action performed by another. Thus, the neuron “mirrors” the behavior of the other, as though the observer were itself acting.  These neurons are believed to be important for learning and understanding language and new skills. They are also important in grasping the actions and intentions of others and can be accredited to the human capacity for empathy, or the ability to understand and share the feelings of another.  This is the same explanation for why we yawn when others yawn, smile when those around us smile and feel a heightened sense of belonging at a large electric event such as a rock concert.

In essence when someone comes to a community clinic for treatment, they become connected to the social nature of their humanness.  They are not only getting the personal benefits of rest, relaxation, increased blood flow and harmony from the acupuncture treatment, but a deeper confirmation neurologically which will increase the benefits manifold just from the awareness that those around them are doing the same.  When we heal together we are breaking this delusion of “separate” that Albert Einstein was talking about.  The reasons most people seek acupuncture treatment are for pain, depression/emotional issues, and various other forms of suffering. All of these symptoms serve to isolate us in one way or another.  While peacefully resting with strategically placed needles in our bodies alongside others doing the same, we acknowledge that we are all in this together, that we are not separate and ultimately when we are unified we can achieve and accomplish things far beyond what we could ever imagine on our own.

To visit our website or book an appointment at Shasta Community Acupuncture: www.shastacommunity.com

To find a community acupuncture clinic near you: https://pocacoop.com/clinics/

To find out more about Community Acupuncture from the progressive group that started it all: www.pocacoop.com

For more info on mirror neurons: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mirror_neuron

For another article on mirroring and body language: https://psychologia.co/mirroring-body-language/

The people at the Heart Math Institute have been doing research and documenting some really cool data on the earth’s geomagnetic field and its relationship to global human responsiveness: https://www.heartmath.org/research/global-coherence/

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. It’s definitely still magic! Thanks, I was really inspired after another time through Fractal and the last paragraph of this really parallels a lot of what I get from that beautiful book.