When you set yourself on fire, people will come from miles around to see you burn.

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: admin@manchesteracupuncturestudio.org 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.”

Skip Van Meter
Author: Skip Van Meter

Skip is Lead Acupuncturist and Co-Founder of <a href="https://www.workingclassacupuncture.org/" target="_blank">Working Class Acupuncture</a> in Portland, Oregon. With the earlier part of his life spent acquiring knowledge about geology, urban planning and teaching high school, he has now been an acupuncturist for 19 years, using about a 1,750,000 needles poking his patients. He likes all things soccer, has three fabulous sons, the best wife in the world, and a great dog and two cool cats.

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  1. On fire

     Hmmm…not one person set on fire.  I don’t know.  I just returned from a wonderful weekend where I hung out with all of these glorious beacons of light.  Their light was so bright that two days later I am here in my clinic and my heart is glowing.

    Steve Kingsbury

    Ashland Community Acupuncture, LLC

  2. what a great weekend!

    The conference literally felt like coming home.  I haven’t felt that instantly at ease with a bunch of (mostly) strangers in a long long time.  There was so much more besides acupuncture that we had in common.  I think if we weren’t so spread across the country (not to mention busy changing the world with acupuncture), a bunch of us would have started bands together.

    I know I can’t wait to get together with everyone again to talk shop, compare notes, share stories, and party down.

  3. do all the good you CAN

    Amen! Even though I didn’t get a chance to participate in any of the downtime, I’m feeling the fire, so i can only imagine. That reinspiration and confirmation of what we’re already doing filled WCA Hillsdale UP today … so great. It was full over the weekend, too. It makes me wonder if it had something to do with all that acupunk revolution energy in the air in Portland. Thank God for this amazing opportunity to jump right into the perfect means for doing good and feeling good and spreading that good far and wide. 

  4. Felt the same way here today, and we’re in Salt Lake.

    Had more new patient calls in a single day today than we’ve almost ever had. Don’t know if that’s just chance, but I like to think it’s the good juju steaming across the desert from the weekend. Or maybe it was really just Cris’s epic rendition of The Age Of The Multi-Stakeholder Cooperative/Let The Hybrids In. It will be some time before I’m able to take the magnitude of THAT all the way in…..


  5. I’d been meaning to blog about…

    …the ‘Patient Communication’ breakout sessions this weekend, but couldn’t pull it all together. In lots of ways, this post hits the notes I wanted to highlight.

    So many Community Acu-punks have information, insights and experience to offer one another. I learned *a ton* of useful clinical info and approaches facilitating 2 workshops over the weekend from the folks who attended.

    I also met a whole slew of acu-punks that I absolutely adore and look forward to catching up with very soon again. And not soon enough…

  6. You’ve all reinspired me to

    You’ve all reinspired me to continue to fight the good fight and reminded me of why I’m doing this in the first place.  Whitsitt is right; it was instantaneous friendship with strangers.  Your hearts are so open and warm.  I’m so priveleged to call myself one of you.


  7. Didn’t attend. Very much there.

    I’m one of the folks who was dying to be there but couldn’t. Suspect there are a lot of us. Hope some of the others speak up. But, for me, and partly because of the very strange phenomenon of facebook and the constant postings, the weekend and days leading up to it were unbearable with wanting. And, this is a good thing. I want to be with my fellow revolutionaries, planning our next moves, swapping stories, and having fun, and, like Skip says, strengthening connections. A whole lot of people in their work never get to experience that wanting, that urgency, that god dammit I belong there (or, belong here if you were there). Certainly hope and assume that this opportunity for pilgrimage will be a regular occurrence, and part of us getting better at broadening and deepening the core of CAN/POCA.

    Missed you all. Maybe, especially those who I’ve never met.

    Korben Perry

    Philadelphia Community Acupuncture

  8. Dream big!

    Hey I love you guys!


    You guys are absolutely wild! We’re barely recovered from CANference and another one is already in the works. You guys are completely inspirational and wonderful incredible down to earth people. Can’t wait to be a part of the next one!