As many of you know, Lisa is a practicing Catholic and that is vital to her work in Community Acupuncture. Myself, I was raised Methodist and am a son of a preacher man. The title of this blog post is a quote from one of the founders of Methodism, John Wesley, and I bring it up because I want to share to everyone what a fantastic experience last weekend's 1st CANference in Portland was. But I should modify the title because there wasn't one person that was set on fire, but everyone present: this meeting was easily the best Acupuncture get together that I have ever experienced. It was…incredible.
So, you who did not attend this CANference are wondering, what was so amazing? Let me explain about some pre-meeting controversy and how the CANference completely turned that controversy on its head and showed the way to a real honest-to-god acupuncture profession.
As planned, this CANference was to be different from other CA workshops. Previously those workshops, mostly run by Lisa and myself (the owners of Working Class Acupuncture) have been about introducing Acupuncturists to Community Acupuncture: why do it, and how to do it. Personally they've been great and we aren't stopping them. But two important things about them: 1) they were/are cheap to attend because we want people to understand Community Acupuncture and 2) their format was us mainly lecturing to you. Top down in a way. Don't get me wrong: a whole bunch of them were Lovefests; real bonding experiences and in no way should that bonding be slighted since so many Acupuncturists get depressed sitting in their lonely little clinics with no real contact with their colleagues.
But perhaps the biggest difference with this CANference was the relatively few CEU's being offered for the weekend (10) relative to the price of the thing: around $350 plus transportation and housing: more expensive than usual. It was noticed on the pre-CANference flyer that there was a lot of break time: half hour between breakout sessions, several times a day. Was this gonna work? Don't people just want AS MANY CEUs AS POSSIBLE???
But work, it did. In spades.
To cut to the chase with this narrative, while Lisa's keynote address was awesome (transcript below, we will get up a video when we can) and the breakout sessions were excellent (more on those later) the GREAT thing was the down time, those half hours between breakouts, the hour long catered lunches on site, and Saturday night especially at the Jupiter hotel, the hippest place in PDX and the food carts at 12th and Hawthorne. So what happened in those down times was CONNECTION. Real connection between participants sharing their real lives including and beyond their business personas. There was an absolute feeling that we are all working on this together; “this” being this acupuncture profession and helping our fellow humans to feel better. That our separate clinics are in fact linked, joined at the hip, and we all succeed together and we have a responsibility to help each other. I am saying a lot of words here and none of them are really expressing the bonding that took place. I have to say that what happened was radically different and better than what takes place at other Acupuncture symposiums and national Acupuncture organization yearly meetings. The usual competition- posturing – pyramid scheme-predatory-anxiety driven emotions were just not present at this one and folks could truly be themselves. Or as Whitsitt Goodson of Acupuncture for the People in Eugene summed it up: Fuck yes.
Even with that preceding paragraph I am not giving the down time justice. But a word on the breakout sessions, which are the next step in. As I mentioned before, the workshops up until now normally had Lisa and I lecturing. Here was different with me not doing any talking by choice and Lisa being limited to the keynote and a specific breakout that related to it. All the rest of the sessions were led by different CA clinic owners and can be seen as the next step in the evolution of Community Acupuncture: at the beginning was Working Class Acupuncture, now it is CAN, the Community Acupuncture Network, and soon it will be POCA, the People's Organization of Community Acupuncture (more later). WCA—>CAN—>POCA. Simple. In other words, there's a lot more Community Acupuncturists who have the knowledge, willingness, and interest (the Fuck, Yes part of the equation) to teach other practitioners about the ins and outs of CA. And in the future a lot more practitioners will be doing the teachings and support because-and here's the difference from what has happened previously in the Acupuncture profession: we are all equals in this and We Know What We Are Doing. The era of withholding information from practitioners as senior practitioners have previously and routinely done, is OVER and won't be missed. Just to take one example, David Lesseps (of Circle Community Acupuncture in San Francisco) did a breakout on needling patients in a recliner, something that I have normally led. He did a great job leading it providing insights that I forget to include. And the best thing? Looking around the room I could see 20 or more other Punks who could have led that session if asked. The knowledge is there, the fear is sloughed off, and the sharing is happening.
So where do we go from here? Is it like normal conferences where everyone goes back to their little clinic hidey hole and gets depressed? Answer: Fuck, no. As a general outline, this spring, summer, and fall, three things will happen:
1) Several Intro to Community Acupuncture workshops in all parts of the country:
a) May 7 & 8 in Portland (See the WCA store)
b) June 4 & 5 in Providence(email Andy Wegman at: email@example.com for info)
c) July 17th in Nashville (See the WCA store)
d) July 16th in Madison, WI (Jade Fang & Jessica Feltz ~ details to follow)
e) Last weekend in July or first weekend in August in Berkeley.
f) fall in Vancouver BC
Keep an eye on our Trainings page for more info. All will have multiple CA practitioner/owners.
2) Concurrently with and also separate from the Trainings above we will be having several Regional Node meetings that all CAN members will be invited to. These meetings are designed to put some teeth into our association, to get clinics to work together to strengthen them and feed into #3 which is:
3) The rolling out of POCA and more CANferences around the country. This past CANference was too good to do just once and besides it was too far away from many practitioners so we are looking to do it again in the west, midwest, and east. We hope to be announcing more CANferences in the next few months. (Or will they be POCACONS?) This is not the post to go more into POCA. I will leave it by saying that POCA is a scalable co-op that will take Acupuncture in this country into a whole new place. Look at the POCA page on Facebook or the POCA page in the forums here for some answers. Note that POCA will slowly roll out over the next year, or even two, as the systems that it will implement will take some time to set up. But set up they will.
So that's my brief take on the CANference and moving forward and if you think this is long you should thank your lucky stars that I am not talking to you in person because there's a lot more that I am not even getting to. Like these. Hopefully other participants can add some clarity in the comments section below. I'll leave with these lines, again by John Wesley which come after the title to this blog entry:
“Do all the good you can,
By all the means you can,
In all the ways you can,
In all the places you can,
At all the times you can,
To all the people you can,
As long as ever you can.”