Community Acupunks contribute to “Saplings”, a compilation of acupuncturists’ personal stories

The new book: Saplings - On the Path to Mastery is compilation of essays by sixteen acupuncturists and herbalists about their experiences of the first years of practice. It was edited by Carl Stimson, an acupuncturist currently living in Japan.

The book includes three wonderfully heartfelt essays by community acupunks: David Lesseps of Circle CA (San Francisco, CA), Pamela O’Malley Chang (my business partner!) of Sarana CA (Albany, CA) and Rebecca Parker of Brooklyn Open Acupuncture (Brooklyn, NY).  Rebecca also penned the excellent preface.

All three essays reflect on the transformation of a new acu-graduate into a community acupuncturist from a personal perspective.

In David’s piece, entitled “Part of the Community”, he shares his journey of discovering and falling in love with community acupuncture in acupuncture school and founding his clinic. He then takes us through a day in the clinic, narrating in detail his experience of starting out the work day in a quiet room full of empty recliners and ending up in a space that, in his description, “practically hums with human presence”. He reflectss on his evolving relationship with his patients since he left acupuncture school, on letting go of the habit of getting bogged down with the complex details of someone’s health history and just showing up in the moment to listen:

Slowly, I am learning to let go of seeing labels on my patients. It is hard to let go of the idea that someone has fibromyalgia, rheumatoid arthritis or ovarian cysts. But when I can just sit down and listen to what patients are experiencing, it is much easier to treat them.

David then talks about what it means for him to be a community acupuncturist:

As a community acupuncturist, I have learned that it is my job to understand the word “community”… When patients come to the clinic, each one has something that is bothering them. For some it is as simple as a hangover from a night of drinking while others might suffer from debilitating migraines or frequent panic attacks. When they sit in the chair and talk to me, they can tell me as much or as little about their condition as they like. I listen to them and experience it with them for a moment. Once the needles are in place and they enter a nice acu-nap, they are sharing that time with everyone else in the room. In my eyes, this is community.

In her essay “Things I Did Not Learn in Acupuncture School”, Rebecca vividly describes the nerve-wracking experience of treating her first-ever community acupuncture patient at her job as a brand-new acupunk. She relates the details of her journey from nervousness to confidence in practice and of the realization that “it is not about me”:

What patients need is an inviting (culturally, economically, medically) place where they can come as often as they need, where they feel heard and supported, where comfort is paramount so they can go inward during treatment, and where they will want to return.

Rebecca also challenges the acupuncture profession to expand its cultural competency, sadly deficient in acupuncture education, to help create a more patient-centered environment in our clinics:

It seems there is an assumption that we do not need to learn about the cultural and economic contexts our patients are coming from, either because it is assumed that everyone we treat will be from a similar background, or because of the nature of our medicine. Indeed, we claim to treat the “whole person: body, mind, and spirit.” But this definition of holistic is fragmented, as it fails to address questions concerning a patient’s place in a societal fabric woven with threads of culture, race, gender, class and other determinants of difference.

Pamela’s eloquent piece, “On Becoming a Community Acupuncturist”, narrates her journey of finding out about community acupuncture, starting a clinic with a partner and learning to be comfortable in her role as a practitioner, building trust and community with her patients:

I realized then that my gift for healing is in holding a space where people can feel safe and acknowledged. I can listen to them and bear witness of their struggles. I do not have magic fingers, but it does not matter. My job is to be as trustworthy and caring as I am capable of and then to step aside. In fact, the longer I practice, the less I think of myself as a healer. I put needles in; I pull needles out. Maybe the most effective thing I do is drape blankets, tucking people in for a cozy nap. People heal themselves – or not. The most I do is to set the stage.

She goes on to talk about her efforts to set boundaries, to develop more speed in delivering high volume treatments without getting behind schedule, and reflects on the what relationships with her patients are teaching her:

Finally, my patients are my ultimate teachers. They show me that acupuncture works: sometimes instantaneously, more often gradually and cumulatively, sometimes spectacularly, and sometimes not well enough. Many of my clients come week after week for months or even years. Their regular attendance means we develop a comfortable, ordinary relationship. In our five-minute conversations, they tell me of their aches, pains and challenges; of births, deaths and everyday stress. They see me on days when the clinic runs smoothly and on days when I am running late. They know me well enough to tell me such things as: “your hands are cold,” “you forgot to take my pulse,” or, “you need to stop and breathe.” (Whereupon I did and thanked the client.)

The ordinariness of our relationship takes the pressure off me. I do not need to have magic fingers or expert answers; I am just an ordinary person – albeit with specialized knowledge – doing what I can to make people feel better.

I really enjoyed reading all three essays. My only disappointment is that all three of the acupunks’ stories included in Saplings are by practitioners who began with community acupuncture straight out of school. I wish the editor would have asked for a contribution from an acupunk who practiced in a private room setting prior to switching to community acupuncture. As this was the experience of many of my POCA comrades, it would have been good to have this type of story included in the book.

I have only glimpsed the other essays in the Saplings, as I am obviously more interested in the community acupunks’ writing, but some of the other stories look interesting, and some kind of wacky and funny.

I will end by sharing another great quote from Rebecca Parker’s preface:

We are stronger when we do not just disappear into our treatment rooms, but when we encourage each other to be ambitious, to think big, and envision the best for ourselves and all people who need relief from suffering. We have a lot of work to do.

Saplings is available as a Kindle edition or as a paper copy from Createspace. It’s pretty inexpensive, so I though some of you might want to check it out.

 

 

 


 

This story was posted on August 2 2012 by tatyana.

Comments

  • August 2 2012 at 1:02 PM
    Demetra writes:

    Nice write-up, thanks Tatyana! I’m looking forward to checking this book out.

      0 likes
  • August 2 2012 at 2:19 PM
    estermarie writes:

    Thank you, Tatyana.  Will definitely check this out and share.

      0 likes
  • August 2 2012 at 2:37 PM
    bottley writes:

    Thanks, Tatyana. I’ll be Kindling this today. It’s a nice thought about the essays from the private room folks who shifted to punking. That might make a great thread here. Being one of them myself, I’ll start thinking about that and maybe get around to writing mine.

      3 likes
  • August 3 2012 at 10:08 PM
    Nora writes:

    Great review, Tatyana!  Sounds like a good read.

      0 likes
  • August 6 2012 at 9:53 PM
    Lisafer writes:

    I bought this on Kindle and I highly recommend it! Thank you to David, Pam and Rebecca for their lovely, honest essays. Boy, do I wish this had been around when I was a newly-minted punk.

      1 likes
    • tatyana

Add your 2 cents!

You must be logged in to comment on the blog.


Who Likes This:

  • Lisafer
  • tatyana
  • suzzanne.lohr
  • estermarie
  • crismonteiro
  • David Lesseps
  • alexa
  • Spartacus
  • Nora
  • Diana
  • Chris P
  • sizzlek
-- placeholder --

Who's been POCAing lately.

  • ewolfk commented on the blog post 'Come to Marin POCAfest September 27-29!' in the blog 'Prick Prod and Provoke Blog' - Friday, August 16, 2019
  • urbanapuncture commented on the blog post 'YOUR COMMENTS, PLEASE!' in the blog 'Prick Prod and Provoke Blog' - Thursday, August 15, 2019
  • crismonteiro commented on the blog post 'YOUR COMMENTS, PLEASE!' in the blog 'Prick Prod and Provoke Blog' - Tuesday, August 13, 2019
  • Roppy commented on the blog post 'YOUR COMMENTS, PLEASE!' in the blog 'Prick Prod and Provoke Blog' - Tuesday, August 13, 2019
  • catemax commented on the blog post 'Dear Prospective Punk (from a Recent Grad and New Punk), or Why We Need POCA Tech' in the blog 'Prick Prod and Provoke Blog' - Friday, July 26, 2019
  • joanneo commented on the blog post 'Cohort 3 Graduation Speech by Jess Long' in the blog 'Prick Prod and Provoke Blog' - Monday, July 08, 2019
  • Bob W commented on the blog post 'Cohort 3 Graduation Speech by Jess Long' in the blog 'Prick Prod and Provoke Blog' - Tuesday, July 02, 2019
  • melissa commented on the blog post 'Cohort 3 Graduation Speech by Jess Long' in the blog 'Prick Prod and Provoke Blog' - Monday, July 01, 2019
  • mcandela55 commented on the blog post 'Acupuncturists As Endangered Species' in the blog 'Prick Prod and Provoke Blog' - Wednesday, June 26, 2019
  • Lisafer commented on the blog post 'Acupuncturists As Endangered Species' in the blog 'Prick Prod and Provoke Blog' - Tuesday, June 25, 2019
  • melissalac commented on the blog post 'Acupuncturists As Endangered Species' in the blog 'Prick Prod and Provoke Blog' - Tuesday, June 25, 2019
  • zedmunds commented on the blog post 'Keynote POCA Fest Milwaukee May 2019 -- ALL EARS!!!' in the blog 'Prick Prod and Provoke Blog' - Thursday, June 20, 2019
  • engerin commented on the blog post 'Student Circle at POCA Tech -- Guest Post by Shelby and Sonya' in the blog 'Prick Prod and Provoke Blog' - Thursday, June 20, 2019
  • Roppy commented on the blog post 'Acupuncturists As Endangered Species' in the blog 'Prick Prod and Provoke Blog' - Monday, June 17, 2019
  • mcandela55 commented on the blog post 'The Vows of Hua Tuo and Sun Si Miao..Actually Carried Out' in the blog 'Prick Prod and Provoke Blog' - Friday, June 14, 2019
  • mcandela55 commented on the blog post 'Acupuncturists As Endangered Species' in the blog 'Prick Prod and Provoke Blog' - Thursday, June 13, 2019
  • mcandela55 commented on the blog post 'Acupuncturists As Endangered Species' in the blog 'Prick Prod and Provoke Blog' - Thursday, June 13, 2019
  • Presence_CA commented on the blog post 'Acupuncturists As Endangered Species' in the blog 'Prick Prod and Provoke Blog' - Monday, June 10, 2019
  • Presence_CA commented on the blog post 'Acupuncturists As Endangered Species' in the blog 'Prick Prod and Provoke Blog' - Monday, June 10, 2019
  • Lisafer commented on the blog post 'Acupuncturists As Endangered Species' in the blog 'Prick Prod and Provoke Blog' - Friday, June 07, 2019
  • teatree commented on the blog post 'Acupuncturists As Endangered Species' in the blog 'Prick Prod and Provoke Blog' - Friday, June 07, 2019
  • teatree commented on the blog post 'Acupuncturists As Endangered Species' in the blog 'Prick Prod and Provoke Blog' - Friday, June 07, 2019
  • janisx commented on the blog post 'Acupuncturists As Endangered Species' in the blog 'Prick Prod and Provoke Blog' - Thursday, June 06, 2019
  • janisx commented on the blog post 'Acupuncturists As Endangered Species' in the blog 'Prick Prod and Provoke Blog' - Thursday, June 06, 2019
  • swiggs commented on the blog post 'A Successful May Membership Drive!!' in the blog 'Prick Prod and Provoke Blog' - Thursday, June 06, 2019
  • Arene commented on the blog post 'A Successful May Membership Drive!!' in the blog 'Prick Prod and Provoke Blog' - Tuesday, June 04, 2019
  • Lisafer commented on the blog post 'A Successful May Membership Drive!!' in the blog 'Prick Prod and Provoke Blog' - Tuesday, June 04, 2019
  • Paxcow commented on the blog post 'A Successful May Membership Drive!!' in the blog 'Prick Prod and Provoke Blog' - Tuesday, June 04, 2019
  • Cynthia Marie commented on the blog post 'Why more punks in more places…' in the blog 'Prick Prod and Provoke Blog' - Wednesday, May 29, 2019
  • swiggs commented on the blog post 'Why more punks in more places…' in the blog 'Prick Prod and Provoke Blog' - Friday, May 24, 2019
  • Bob W commented on the blog post 'Why more punks in more places…' in the blog 'Prick Prod and Provoke Blog' - Wednesday, May 22, 2019
  • mcandela55 commented on the blog post 'Keynote POCA Fest Milwaukee May 2019 -- ALL EARS!!!' in the blog 'Prick Prod and Provoke Blog' - Wednesday, May 22, 2019
  • Laura commented on the blog post 'I Am Closing My Clinic -- Guest Post by Michelle Rivers' in the blog 'Prick Prod and Provoke Blog' - Tuesday, May 21, 2019
  • Laura commented on the blog post 'Keynote POCA Fest Milwaukee May 2019 -- ALL EARS!!!' in the blog 'Prick Prod and Provoke Blog' - Monday, May 20, 2019
  • Paxcow commented on the blog post 'Keynote POCA Fest Milwaukee May 2019 -- ALL EARS!!!' in the blog 'Prick Prod and Provoke Blog' - Monday, May 20, 2019
  • crismonteiro commented on the blog post 'The Vows of Hua Tuo and Sun Si Miao..Actually Carried Out' in the blog 'Prick Prod and Provoke Blog' - Monday, May 13, 2019
  • Roppy commented on the blog post 'The Vows of Hua Tuo and Sun Si Miao..Actually Carried Out' in the blog 'Prick Prod and Provoke Blog' - Wednesday, May 08, 2019
  • Paxcow commented on the blog post 'The Vows of Hua Tuo and Sun Si Miao..Actually Carried Out' in the blog 'Prick Prod and Provoke Blog' - Monday, May 06, 2019
  • Lisafer commented on the blog post 'Toward a Culture of Safety: Part 4, AERD as Relationship Management' in the blog 'Prick Prod and Provoke Blog' - Monday, April 29, 2019
  • ellengrover commented on the blog post 'Toward a Culture of Safety: Part 4, AERD as Relationship Management' in the blog 'Prick Prod and Provoke Blog' - Saturday, April 27, 2019
  • ewolfk commented on the blog post 'Toward a Culture of Safety, Part 1' in the blog 'Prick Prod and Provoke Blog' - Friday, April 12, 2019
  • Paxcow commented on the blog post 'All Ears!' in the blog 'Prick Prod and Provoke Blog' - Thursday, March 28, 2019
  • OpenSourceEverything commented on the blog post 'New POCA Tech FAQs' in the blog 'Prick Prod and Provoke Blog' - Wednesday, March 13, 2019
  • urbanapuncture commented on the blog post 'Fatphobia Part 3: Some Thoughts about Diet Culture and Talking to Patients' in the blog 'Prick Prod and Provoke Blog' - Wednesday, March 13, 2019
  • Roppy commented on the blog post 'The Acupuncture Profession has 99 problems, but NADA ain’t one of them.' in the blog 'Prick Prod and Provoke Blog' - Tuesday, March 12, 2019
  • OpenSourceEverything commented on the blog post 'Open Sourcing Modern Acupuncture, Part Two: Trouble' in the blog 'Prick Prod and Provoke Blog' - Monday, March 11, 2019
  • OpenSourceEverything commented on the blog post 'Hierarchy of Needs: Too Sexy for This Work?' in the blog 'Prick Prod and Provoke Blog' - Monday, March 11, 2019
  • urbanapuncture commented on the blog post 'Hierarchy of Needs: Poor People's Priorities' in the blog 'Prick Prod and Provoke Blog' - Wednesday, February 20, 2019
  • Lisafer commented on the blog post 'Stone Soup and Social Containers' in the blog 'Prick Prod and Provoke Blog' - Wednesday, February 13, 2019
  • Nityamo commented on the blog post 'POCA Clinic Member Changes' in the blog 'Prick Prod and Provoke Blog' - Wednesday, February 13, 2019