“You Get What You Pay For”, and other American myths

Children’s books are teaching me a lot these days. Domitila is a Mexican Cinderella story. My five year old seems to be able sniff these classics out as soon as she enters the library. Smart girl – gives me a lot of hope for our future. Domitila’s mother puts love into everything she does, even cooking with scruffy cactus plants from the desert, transforming them into a delicacy (nopales). Domitila learns her mother’s art and impresses the governor’s son who endures great sacrifice, trying to find the mysterious servant who can reveal the secret. Meanwhile, the evil stepsister and her mother try to trick our heroine and her father with delicacies made from stolen food – but the taste is horrible. We love these stories and honor their wisdom. Why is it often difficult for us to live by them?

Goods and services made and offered with love and intention are a rarity in today’s big box world. But even in the healing arts profession, we often assume that the quality of the service is in direct proportion to the price. Is this accurate? The dusty old adage “you get what you pay for” – like any cultural phrase – can only be discerned objectively to the extent that one can step outside the hall of mirrors implicit in any culture. And that’s a high bar of objectivity. Well, for three years I lived on a small island in Western Canada on the edge of nowhere, no locked door, off the power grid, my kayak parked just above the beach. For two years I lived in an unheated one room flat at 6000 feet in the Himalayan foothills. Perhaps a speck of credibility from the many moons not chasing after the ignoble American green paper god.

I am a member of a local organic food co-op. You have to be pretty well off to buy organic foods these days and many of my acupuncture patients remark that they can’t afford such luxuries. I live pretty much month to month. The global adventures of my 20s and 30s have left me with a modest two bedroom apartment lifestyle in my 40s. I have a few regrets from these more frivolous years, but my bank account isn’t one of them. In any case, I refuse to scrimp on healthy organic food for my family. Food is medicine…is Chi for life.

Anyways, I was reading the classified ads at the back of the co-op newsletter. There are always a few acupuncture ads – some of them obviously costing several hundred dollars per issue. I could never ever go there. Indeed, in some circles, it is considered lowly to advertise when you are a health care provider. Word of mouth is of course best. But there are other factors. CommuniChi is a unique bird in these parts though, and probably there are lots of folks who haven't heard about us, so when I spied the classified rate – $5 for 39 characters, my Scrabble gamemanship answered the challenge: Acupuncture $15 communichi.org 860-5009

39 characters exactly, including spaces. I told the Co-op office if they wanted to throw in the period for free at the end of the line, they were free to do so, but we weren’t interested in paying the extra five bucks for the sake of grammatical correctness. If e e cummings could, why not i? Ah America, where paying more for something gives you elevated status – and of course that’s genuine happiness. Right? Ask the teenagers in public school who refuse to eat a subsidized lunch because they feel stigmatized by their peers. We are such a confused society.

Here in Seattle the big news today is the loss of the $40 billion dollar Boeing tanker contract. Too bad the so-called “news” seems to ignore the fact that all these war toys are not making it any easier to solve our health care crisis at home. Likewise, they do not make it easier to increase funding for education which would also help address another shameful American statistic which just came out: 1 in 100 Americans is behind bars. There’s another $50 billion a year flushed down the toilet for the newest growth industry in America – prisons, not to mention the millions of lives flushed down also.

But back to our $5 ad for $15 acupuncture – surely the laughing stock of the white coated acupuncture world. We are trained to be part of a respectful cadre of medical professionals. And that means charging what you are worth right? If your average M.D. can get $250 an hour, acupuncturists should get at least $100 a treatment, don’t you think? And what kind of fool would rent out a funky space on the top floor of a Latino community center? How will you attract all those high rollers who believe in the “you get what you pay for” myth.

Besides the fact that there are fewer and fewer people who can pay $1000 out of pocket for a course of acupuncture, or have the insurance policy which would cover it, I am not interested in playing that game. Been there, done that, and while I miss the patients I served in my boutique clinic, most of them will likely find another network provider. Meanwhile, it’s a stressed out world we live in, and there’s millions of people in America who could use regular acupuncture but can’t afford it at “the going rate”.

Although some of my colleagues may sneer at me behind my back as the discount warehouse of acupuncture, it does not concern me what they may think. I feel as if I’ve merely stripped away the unncessary punctuation marks and left in all the poetry, love, and healing power implicit in the true art of acupuncture.

river Jordan
Author: river Jordan

After graduating from the Northwest Institute of Acupuncture & Oriental Medicine in 1997, I had a hobby practice for a few years before moving to Northern India to study Buddhism. During this time, I volunteered in a local clinic, giving acupuncture to Tibetan refugees and Indian nationals. <p> Returning to the U.S. in 2002, I started a typical insurance based acupuncture practice catering to the upper middle class. In 2005, following Hurricane Katrina, I volunteered with <a href="https://www.acuwithoutborders.org/" target="_blank">Acupuncturists Without Borders</a>, using community style acupuncture to treat trauma victims in a natural disaster setting. </p> Inspired by the power and efficacy of acupuncture in a post-disaster setting, I began to contemplate issues of socioeconomic class. What could be done to make acupuncture accessible to everyone and still provider a livable wage for an acupuncturist? After attending WCA's first conference in October of 2006, I had found the answer to that question. In January 2007, together with my partner Serena Sundaram, we founded <a href="https://www.communichi.org/" target="_blank">Communichi</a>, Seattle's first dedicated community acupuncture clinic. <p> As a Buddhist, I believe that healing begins in the mind. As the positive qualities of wisdom and compassion are cultivated in the mind of a practitioner, this...

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Responses

  1. nice blog jordan. it takes

    nice blog jordan. it takes great bravery to live your life the way you want to.

     

    (here are a couple free periods for ya!)  . . . .