What I Learned By Not Going (To the CANference)

…I learned that I want to go next year, and that I thought of the folks there in Portland the whole weekend. But that is not the take-away message. It’s not even the take-away message that it needed to have been closer (it didn’t) or less expensive (it needn’t) or anything else like that.

The take-away message is this: I spent the weekend thinking about the acupuncture clinic where I work, and why it is in the health it is in right now, and why I am in the health I am in right now, and how both can be better, and how the two are related, and how one cannot be stronger without the other being stronger… And then Monday there was Lisa’s keynote lecture right there on the CAN home page, addressing that very thing much cleaner and better than I did in my busy little red-haired head. The message? That community clinics do not function in a vacuum. We don’t function, or struggle, or wonder, or persevere alone. We are not islands, though there are days, of course, when that’s the very thought that comes to mind. All across the country and indeed across the world, community acupuncture clinics are working within a framework, a belief system that is shared, and thus the problem that one has? Another has had too. Just last week. Or will have next week. And that’s not a bad thing. That’s how a collective works, how problems are solved, how most can experience the same success as another.

I’ve been through an interesting experience at CCA. I was strong, healthy, financially stable…and the clinic was too. Personal stuff started leaking out of my life, taking up an awful lot, and then even more of my “heart energy” as Lisa says, and the clinic started to slide. I had no room in my head – my body, yes, but my head? Completely full. And the clinic began to be a place I went to work. A place I longed to come home from. The strong, happy, crazy-growing clinic that the community had poured it’s heart into became a quiet, empty place, waiting to be filled. CCA never struck me as lonely, even through the long winter; more like it was waiting through a pregnant pause. Like it’s heart-keeper had stepped out, and indeed I had. Slowly, slowly I came to – and like the near-dead plant someone brought to me, the clinic did too. The new punk settled in and sunk her teeth into her work. I shook out the cobwebs from between my ears and grappled with policies and volunteers, physical plant issues and advertising. We began to rebuild as a group: patients, punks, staff, clinic. We grew together like vines through a chain-link fence. CCA is raising it’s head and standing on it’s own again. Every day that I can show up and be present and make room in my heart and head for what’s happening in the clinic is a day that CCA pops out one more leaf, one more blossom – and it’s the same when Kim (CCA co-punk) or reception staff or corner-of-the-room-anchoring patients show up ready to roll. And I have found our story written in the words of the keynote speech on the very front page of CAN’s website.

Another thing I learned by not going? I learned that in the world of CA, it doesn’t matter if you go or not. CA friends called me to ask me one more time to go last week – and friends called me when they returned home to give me the lowdown, the rundown, the play by play and the need-to-know info. There’s no judgment, no us and them, no haves (got to go) and have-nots (didn’t go). The party is always more fun if we all can go – but we’re all part of the scheme even if we can’t. If like me you weren’t able to go, or didn’t want to go, or whatever – don’t feel that there is an “in” crowd now, and you aren’t part of it. Haven’t you caught on yet? If you’re involved in any way with CA in this country, you ARE the in crowd! You want to help provide acupuncture to as many people as possible at a price most can afford? There’s a place for you and me at the table, CANference-goer or not.

I learned a lot of other stuff too – not least of which was that not having a video of myself singing karaoke on YouTube is really, really cool – but the things I mentioned above jumped out and grabbed me right away.  Next year, when I go – or whenever I go – I will be so happy to remember that either way, go or not go, it's all good.  There's no closely guarded secret that only inductees will know.  No hidden voting, no creepy no-one-knows financial crisis behind the scenes that we'd only know about by being there.  What happened at the CANference ended up on the front page of the website within hours.  That was so awesome for those of us not there singing kumbaya.  We sing in spirit.  But no, I'm not posting that on YouTube either.

Author: jenniferwoolf

Graduate of SWAC, ran a private room clinic for five years before going to work at MAS to see what this community acupuncture stuff was all about. Now a part of the POCA team in New Hampshire with a clinic in the state capitol.

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  1. Beautifully said.

    I was there (and yeah, thanks for the dig about the YouTube videos, which I am *not* watching!), and am not only missing the people (like you) that didn’t get to come, but also the people who were there with whom I didn’t have time to have one-on-one, heart-to-hearts with.  It makes me even more grateful that we have this great internet resource still for continuing the conversation and sharing what we did learn, or what even those of us that were there missed (and I’m grateful to the folks whose breakout sessions I missed for posting about them!).  I’m enjoying being back in my clinic, feeling less “cobwebby” and more inspired to grapple with the things that I struggle with; partly because folks were so honest this weekend about their own, similar struggles; and I know you all are out there doing the same.  Courage!

  2. Thank you, Jennifer.

    I, too was unable to go, and deeply moved by Lisa’a speech. It’s the heart thing. My clinic was chugging along wonderfully, and I was thrilled with my numbers, when they suddenly dropped by 30%. The problem? I had a front desk crisis with a change of front desk people 3 times in a month, and none of them was working out well, and fucking up the scheduling.That’s all been solved, but a more important thing was the closing of my own heart. Three years ago I was treated for breast cancer, and for the last month I’ve been dealing with the possibility of a recurrence. Test after test was done, each looking worse, and I was really fucking depressed. Finally an MRI showed the residents reading the other tests were all being over-cautious and there’s nothing there. I feel like I’ve been beaten up for a month, and I’m supposed to do the Happy Dance that it’s finally stopped. I’m really having a hard time finding my joy again. And I know that when I do people will come flying through the doors in great numbers, because I’ll have space inside me for all of them. For now I’m grateful to have a little extra time to go for walks and let the terror and sadness ooze out my pores.


  3. I’m so happy that you have

    I’m so happy that you have the space to let all of the gunk ooze out.  It is such a gift when we get a little time to heal and get our shit back together.  When that wonderful heart of yours feels less overhwelmed it will burst wide open and the people will defintiely flood back into the clinic.  Sending you lots of love and hugs from DC.


    Little Bird Community Acupuncture

    Washington, DC


  4. Thank you for this Jennifer.

    Thank you for this Jennifer.

    I too was unable to attend. My partner and I are hip deep in negotiating a new lease, not to mention saving money to finance a move of office space, AND getting acquainted to having her in the clinic. Funds were tight.

    One particular comment you made really resonated with me: “And the clinic began to be a place I went to work. A place I longed to come home from. ”

    That has happened to me as well…. I go along, with my head down, and when I look up I realize that I stopped being present, and voila! so did my patients. Then I have to drum up (dig deep and find) that enthusiasm.

    I think the CANference would have been a great exposure, a great opportunity for growth of self, and clinic, and how great to connect to everyone! I think perhaps it was best I didn’t attend though because my heart has been full of loveliness of having a partner, and accomodating to that, and my head is swirling in all that needs done. So next year. 🙂 Thanks again.

    Dana @ Skagit Community Acupuncture

  5. Pauline….

    Close your eyes for a second… can you feel that big delicious hug I just gave you?  Until I can give one to you in person, these will have to suffice.  

    love, love, love,

    Julia in Berkeley