So many of the lovely recent posts have inspired me to chime in with this one about how our clinics are havens for people to feel whatever it is they are feeling — happiness, pain, anxiety, grief, sadness…

You know how chief complaints come in waves?The week of shoulder pain patients followed by a cluster of interstitial cystitis interspersed with a smattering of insomnia or anxiety, etc. – just like the nasty virus that starts with a sore throat is going around, other disharmonies seem to show up as though they are “going around”.Here at BAP recently, we’ve gone through more tissue boxes than usual – and not from colds or allergies.Lately, it seems that lots of people are being moved to tears during their treatments, often breaking into full blown sobs as they process whatever is coming up for them while they let Ren 17 break open their hearts or grapple with the deep inner/outer maneuverings of ShaoYinShaoYang 3-6.

Having a clinic in a place like Berkeley, it’s not entirely uncommon for people to come right out and say that they are here today to work on their inability to feel connected to their wife or that their heart chakra feels blocked or that their vata/pitta disharmony is acting up.I know that there’s a general allergic reaction to what we often deem to be New Age talk within the community acupuncture world, but for some of us, that’s the true language we hear from our patients and that’s what we choose to hold for them – whatever it is that they are trusting us to hear.It doesn’t matter whether or not we understand the chakra system they are referring to or that we do or don’t know our way around Auryvedic medicine or that we are not there to be their psychotherapist.We are there to hold a space for them as they show up with whatever it is that brought them in.Sometimes, and this is one of the blessings of having people come regularly, they don’t know themselves what they are coming in for – they just know that acupuncture helps ‘reset’ them and that their bodies will know what to do with the needles.But perhaps most importantly, they have come to trust that we will know what to do once they report their motive for showing up that day and that they are safe in the arms of our chairs and within the gaze of their compatriots.

At least once each day, I try to find a moment to stand in the middle of the treatment room and take stock of how incredibly honored I am to witness the healing and the vulnerability and the risk taking and the courage, and, especially recently, the tears of our patients. That they know our clinics are a safe space for them to peel away the layers and let the rawness show through is truly a sign that we have created something of value here.Of course, we love it when they celebrate their joys and newfound freedom from pain, but it’s also through their tears that we truly know we have accomplished something with our work.

I am honored to be a part of this with you all.Thank you for your continued inspiration.

Author: JuliaC

<p> Hi, friends. I started TCM school when I was supposed to be writing my dissertation for my PhD at Stanford.  The car had been washed, the grout cleaned, the kitchen repainted - there was simply no other bonafide distraction left for me but to get another Masters degree! I had been theorizing about the critiques of western biomed from every angle and finally decided I would rather be *doing* something about it rather than just thinking about it and writing about it and interviewing people about it.  My BA is in Philosophy, so I was pretty good at the thinking part.  And my PhD was in an interdiscplinary program, so I am not a card carrying member of any one discipline or line of thought - just your average, run-of-the-mill post-structuralist feminist/queer theorist/medical anthropologist/rhetorician. I am also one of the founders of a non-profit, sustainable food co-op here in Berkeley, so my heart has always been in community-based projects that try to remove financial obstacles from people getting what they truly need and deserve.  </p>

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  1. Inner/Outer pain

    Awesome and so true.  Lately we’ve had tears from the guy who ran over his dog, the woman whose daughter is balancing on the cusp of adulthood with some serious anger issues, the patient ending a 10 year marriage.  None of them talked about their chakras or doshas – it is New England, after all – but it’s the same darn thing.  Thanks for the blog.  It’s a good thing to read before my shift today.


  2. pain is pain

    Thanks, Julia. Since my clinic is a mere 10 minute drive from yours, we get lots of New Age-speak complaints as well. While I love all our patients, I defintely have some issues with this “style” of expressing and your post is a great reminder that suffering is suffering and it is my job to hold the space for those that seek help from me, whether it is elbow pain or a blockage in the heart chakra, or their heart chakra blockage manifesting in the elbow pain ;). Part of it is to trust the patients to “know that acupuncture helps ‘reset’ them and that their bodies will know what to do with the needles.”


  3. Thanks Julia – this is

    Thanks Julia – this is great.

    Until you mentioned it I’d never thought about the language that people use. SCA is in a relatively rural area, but hippy friendly. And while I’m not sure what I personally identify as (aside from “Dana”), I do occasionally get people coming in talking about their chakras and such. I just listen openly and joyfully and I hear what they are talking about regardless of the language. The only time I am taken aback is when they ask me about their chakras and I have to explain to them that I’m not versed in that energetic work, but that I know it has validity.

    It  makes me chuckle that some people come in thinking I am totally woo-woo for being an acupuncturist, and then others come in and are confused that I am so “regular” and laid back. Its all in perspective.

    We haven’t had too many tears here lately, but we have had a wave of people who are making a “shift” in their life that is uncomfortable (as growth is!).

    Dana @ Skagit Community Acupuncture

  4. I get tears, too.

    Abuse survivors with new memories and people leaving alcoholic marriages and all sorts of pain. I feel very deeply moved that people trust me and the space enough to let their tears flow in the presence of others. I reassure them that tears during needling are particularly healing — and that’s what they tell me, too. There’s a special kind of gratitude these people express for being allowed the space to feel their pain fully, and to have it accepted. It’s in the warmth of their smiles after treatment, as well as their words. It’s different from psychotherapy. I did that for 20 years and it was rare to have anyone express gratitude. But now it happens every day. I can’t help but believe I’m dong the right thing. And, yes, as I look around my treatment room, I feel so very honoured by their trust. And so excited by their healing.


  5. Speaking as a patient…

    My family and I have been going through a challenging time as a family member left our home last month. Although I was anticipating her leave taking, i was not at all prepared when the day had come. The news came in the middle of the afternoon and much of my support system was at work. Loneliness enveloped me and I felt like I had no one to call on, to cry to, to unload my grief.

    In an inspired moment I jumped in my car and went to my office knowing that Lynn would lovingly accept me as a walk-in.  i was welcomed with a hug and ushered to a chair where I got what I needed, the space to listen to my own heart. I told Lynn I had an hour to pull myself together before I had to meet the school bus and tell my little guys the news that they were dreading.

    After 40 minutes I had to go to the bathroom and had Lynn pull my needles. With 15 minutes to sit I returned to my chair and hunkered in under the covers curled in a ball and sobbed. At moments I felt self conscious with questions like, “What are my patients going to think of me?” I let those thoughts go quickly so as to listen closely as my heart cracked open. Then suddenly I heard a voice say, “Throw a party!” 

    The boys and I made a meal of our favorite comfort food and we bought a going away present. We invited our other local family members over to share in the “celebration.” As our loved one stepped out the door there were many tears, but somehow I was able to hold my family in our grief for that few hours and felt full of grace. I am not so sure I could have done that had I not taken refuge in a lovely sweet corner of my world, Community Acupuncture of Towson.

  6. Great blog and comments

    I can also say that I recently had a little “cry session” at a neighboring community acupuncture clinic last week. I’ve recently had a major change in my personal life and my first thought was to go get some acupuncture! I had a pretty good idea the flood gates may open if I actually went in for treatment and thought, ok, if they do, am I going to seem like an unstable practitioner to my colleagues?! Sure enough, CV17 did the trick and the punk treating me was ready with tissues in hand. I was extremely thankful to have a place to start my healing process, with no judgement attached. I guess we all may be in need of some recliner time once in a while. I think it’s great that we not only support our local communities but each other as well. (PS – thank you staff at MAS) 🙂