Lately I have been discovering the dance of yin and yang in my own practice, as I attempt to teach this concept to my students in my introductory class at the local community college.Each quarter thatI taught this, I would give them a list of yin words with a match list of the polar opposites, the yang words.At the end of the quarter, their understanding of this was improved but not profoundly.I tried demonstrating the contrasts by playing games and using physical examples and demonstrations, but time and again found all of us sucked into the delusion of one or the other.As soon as we got comfortable with one, we’d lose our vigilance, and the yin would become yang without our noticing, and confuse us.Or yang would become yin.
When I first embraced the CA concept in 2006, the entire concept seemed so elegant in its simplicity and power: lower costs and fees, simplify treatments, treat more people in an hour.In the following two years I discovered that these principles work! And I also found that by espousing this new model of acupuncture delivery to the public, I differentiated myself from the rest of the rank-and-file acupuncturists.I became a “nice” and “kind” person in the eyes of whomever was given this manifesto: empower the people by offering an affordable treatment!By continuing to see myself in this new role, I found myself offering succor to not only the ordinary grateful local citizens, but also the down-trodden poor and depressed, the whiners and the blamers.Here I had continued to expand outward without caution, in my careless compassion, and these elements just came right in and sucked me up into their dramas.Ouch.It didn’t take long to realize that I needed to balance my attitude in seeking new patients.
I still believe in CAN’s mission is bringing affordable acupuncture to the masses, even more ardently today.But I now realize that running a clinic like this is lots harder than running a business simply because you want to make money.It takes constant vigilance to keep a balance between yin and yang, between offering and accepting, welcoming and setting boundaries, spending and earning, opening and closing, moving swiftly through the treatment and making the patient at the same time feel as if you are completely focused on them, letting your intuition guide your choice of treatment while remembering the advice of your teachers, making your clinic beautiful but comfortable, the list is endless.
I decided to write this because I realize that new CAN practitioners could be struggling with this.They may be asking themselves if the CA idea isn’t the remedy they thought it would be for them, because their expectations aren’t being fulfilled.This certainly happened with me in the beginning when I operated out of a three-chair clinic, and found that although I had more patients than ever before, I wasn’t earning enough money to more than meet expenses.Like me, many of the smaller clinics were hesitant to take such financial risks by expanding into a large clinic. I added another chair, and later moved to a larger place that gives me 6 chairs (actually 4 chairs and 2 tables).Around this time Ann Mongeau conducted her survey of the CAN clinics, and showed statistically that the clinics with a minimum of 7 chairs were financially successful.This also confirmed the original premise that high volume coupled with low fees could create a sustainable practice.High.Not medium. The yang expansion created a large enough space to welcome in (yin) more patients which brought more income and a more complete community.
Another common example is the startup panic when some patients seem to be dissatisfied, and they leave or they complain about things.Or they leave because of financial constraints.And you think: this isn’t supposed to happen when my fees are so low!Then you start doubting your own knowledge base or your competence, and you make mistakes because you’re no longer comfortable in your personal space.Your diminishing patient load pulls you into a yin-spin, and you think about the rent that’s due at the end of the month, and you have a harder and harder time feeling positive about your business.Maybe you lower your standards a bit and accept a patient you know is going to be difficult, emotionally.You find yourself willing to work at inconvenient hours for just one patient.You may be telling yourself that you need to do this to bring in enough money.Before you know it, you’re at the bottom of the barrel, focusing on — guess what–money.From starting out with a starry-eyed vision of taking care of a large community of patients who need your expertise, you’ve arrived as this struggling acupuncturist wondering if you made the right choice, because you’re no longer having fun.
You can change this in an instant.
I look at the successful practitioners and interpret their main attitude as yang: expanding outward to look for all the people who need their services.They think in terms of reaching the largest number of people possible to help, in contrast to pulling in the largest number of paying patients to keep their clinic and their lives afloat financially.These practitioners have managed to step over that delusion of money being the foundation of their business; they intuitively live in a constantly rejuvenating energetic spiral outward, this spiral bringing their services to more people, who in yin turn bring in more business but more importantly their pure qi, which circulates in the clinic and in the clinic’s community to give it solidity and life.This dance of yin and yang, in my opinion, is what is making some clinics really successful.
Most of these practitioners never did this intentionally.They are, as Larry G. has said, Expressing Themselves.They are expressing their belief in the perfection of humanity and themselves by aiming their life’s work at the high ideal of social justice for all.They are so fired up by this bright vision that momentary setbacks and patient difficulties or challenges are minor problems, because the goal is bigger than they are.Patients seem to sense this, as they connect with these practitioners.They trust them because they know their acupuncturist is genuinely concerned about them as humans, not just as customers.They relate to them on an impersonal level, as a human, not as a named identity.I suspect this is why they have no qualms about discussing their complaints during intake in a crowded reception room. You would think that people would want to be recognized for their individual, personal selves first (as often happens with a private practice).But now I’m beginning to think that if we are treated as the sacred humans we all are, we get more satisfaction out of that kind of rapport because we are treated with more kindness and respect.
Here’s a Thanksgiving blessing I pulled out of a Real Simple magazine:
“Bless this food we are about to receive.
To those who hunger give bread;
And to those who have bread give the hunger for justice.”
(traditional Latin American grace)