“Three years seems to be a big turning point in people’s understand of how CA ‘works’. Can you explain this a little more, or maybe others with some years under their belt can chime in? What changes in those three years?” For me: everything.
I cringe at many of my early posts, and when I stumble across them I’m tempted to hit the delete button. But they serve as a good reminder (for me) that few people “get” CAN right off the bat. The wisdom and experiences of these posts seeps-in slowly, like a gentle rain.
- My first two years of discovering CAN (2006-07) were very cerebral.
I spent hours poring over the threads and reading the books (the Little Red Book and later The Remedy). I visited Linda Stengel’s clinic in WI and talked with her about her experiences. And I daydreamed endlessly about what my own clinic would look like. I spent months writing a business plan: reading biz books, talking with accountants, my local Economic Department, the SBDC, and working with a mentor thru SCORE.
I lived my clinic in my head. I fantasized about beautiful décor, elaborate treatments, and the enthusiasm of an endless stream of patients. I dreamed of a world in which we (acupuncturists) all just got along, even suggesting that we adopt a more Gandhi-like attitude towards our peers.
- My clinic opened just before 2008. That’s the year my hands got involved.
In Bill Buxton’s book “Sketching User Experiences,” he writes about a ceramics professor who divides the students of his class into two sections. He tells one half of the class that their final grade will be based exclusively on the volume of their production; the more they make, the better their grade. The professor tells the other half of the class that they will be graded more traditionally, based solely on the quality of their best piece. At the end of the semester, the professor discovered that the students who were focused on making as many pots as possible also ended up creating the best pots, much better than the pots made by the students who spent all semester trying to create that one perfect pot.”
I spent much of this year chasing after that one perfect pot. Newly graduated, I had difficulty with the short intake, especially when the treatment room was slow. I feared that I was short-changing my patients by not delving into the ten questions, because that’s what was hammered into me for five years at school. I felt apologetic for not offering cupping or guasha. (You can even see me cupping peep’s on a video about CA. Aack!) I wanted to offer brief snippets of lifestyle advice, because I had paid so much in time and money to learn it and shouldn’t I just *do* something with that knowledge?!
Little did I understand that the things I thought my working-class patients were “missing,” were the very things which served to dissuade them from receiving acupuncture in a boutique setting. That became most clear to me when I tried to introduce sliding scale massage. I thought it would be a perfect fit: the massage therapist could offer the body work which I don’t, for an affordable rate, at the same place. Easy-peezy….NOT. It was confusing for people to stop and figure-out how much money they had, and how much time they had for acupuncture/massage, and how they wanted to fit it all together. They simply wanted to get poked and sleep in peace.
As my hands got busier with needling, I learned to trust them more and released my ideas of what a perfect treatment was “supposed” to look like (according to my schooling). I watched as patients felt better with frequently repeated treatments. I witnessed as they sent their friends and family in droves, and I began to understand that what I offered was perfect in its simplicity. I stored my cups and spoons in the attic, packed-up my massage table, and added more chairs in the clinic.
- 2009: the year I got pissy.
When I first read Lisa’s articles in ‘06, I thought she was offering charitable services to the underclass. Over time, I grasped that a CA clinic needs to serve the majority of people in my community (the working class) and it needs to be sustainable (the underclass can’t afford $15 treatments with consistency). As I better understood my patient base, I realized that I would be taking care of my friends, my children’s friends, our neighbors…the people who hold space in my heart.
I see how effective this medicine can be when it’s kept simple and accessible. To do anything else (such as raising the educational standards, preventing interested students from learning about CAN, or suggesting that simple services are sub-standard) serves as a barrier to people receiving effective health care. When barriers arise that could keep the people I care about from receiving the services that they need, I get pissed-off.
I feel like I’ve sunk into this experience a little backwards: head first, then hands, and finally my heart. But I think I’m starting to get it. And I can understand how difficult it must be for newbies to “get it” when we have over 3800 threads and almost 20,000 comments hidden inside the forums. That’s a lot to immerse in and sift through, especially when you consider that many of the early posts reflect ideas we’ve since discarded.
Malcolm Gladwell, in his latest book “Outliers”, writes that achieving excellence at a complex task requires a minimum level of practice, and experts have settled on 10,000 hours as the magic number for true expertise. Gladwell quotes neurologist Daniel Levitin as follows: “In study after study, of composers, basketball players, fiction writers, ice-skaters, concert pianists, chess players, master criminals, this number comes up again and again. Ten thousand hours is equivalent to roughly three hours a day, or 20 hours a week, of practice over 10 years…No one has yet found a case in which true world-class expertise was accomplished in less time. It seems that it takes the brain this long to assimilate all that it needs to know to achieve true mastery.“
10,000 hours. 20 hours a week…for 10 years. It’s interesting for me to reflect on how my attitudes have changed in the past few years. What about yours? Even CAN has evolved: remember the hybrid failures?
I wonder what the next decade will bring…