One of my Buddhist teachers often quoted Voltaire: “Doubt is uncomfortable, but certainty is absurd”. Whether one is seeking an answer to the question of the presence of a supreme being or what the next moment will bring, in the end, different people will always come up with different answers. Accepting that reality brings great inner peace. My practice – when I remember – is to let go into the present moment and not contend with conflicting views or the unknowability of reality in conceptual terms. Of course, choices in life are often necessary, requiring an individual to take a stand. As much as practical, I endeavor to choose the middle path between extremes of nihilism and absolutism, accepting the inevitable contradictions and moral tensions that often are present.
Apologies if that is too philosophical a ramble to quickly digest – I’ll try to bring it back down to Earth, here and now: I am wrestling on a daily basis with the existential question of how to respond to the great COVID curve ball that life is throwing at all of us now. In particular, as the sole-proprietor of a community acupuncture clinic, the question of how and when to reopen weighs heavily upon me.
On the one hand, I feel a commitment to my community – people seeking a non-pharmaceutical based, self-empowering form of natural healing. We need acupuncture more than ever now, as our immune system faces a potent and deadly new threat in the form of a novel virus leaping from animals to humans. Acupuncture and natural medicine has for thousands of years, demonstrated its ability to enliven and strengthen the immune system of humans and animals.
On a related note – as I have written in a previous blog, demonizing the virus and adopting a warrior-militant attitude of seek and destroy is delusional if we imagine that the virus is something external with no relationship to the ecological imbalances our species is responsible for. As a group of scientists recently concluded, there is “a perfect storm” of viruses waiting to jump from animals to humans if we fail to protect natural ecosystems. And while on the topic of preventive medicine, it’s important to recognize that the coronavirus preferentially targets individuals with pre-existing degenerative diseases such as high blood pressure, diabetes, and cancer, conditions that a vegan diet (and meditation and acupuncture) can help mitigate.
On the other hand, the coronavirus is killing people in large numbers – 73,234 in the U.S. as of this writing, or 5.8% of all cases. The practice of acupuncture requires practitioner and client to be in very close proximity. Even when both parties wear masks, it is not practical to be in this proximity without some exchange of microdroplets via normal respiration. Wearing a mask in enclosed social settings, let alone during medical procedures, is deemed imperative now, but won’t remove all risk. There is still so much we don’t know about this virus, particularly the nature of asymptomatic carriers.
Governor Inslee recently issued a four phased approach to reopen the Washington economy, but that has no definite timeline other than that we are now in Phase 1 until at least May 25. It is possible that CommuniChi will remain closed until we reach Phase 4, which could be a year or more. While I acknowledge the loss to the community, and the challenges to my own income stream, the clinic is situated in a home that I share with my 92 year old father. My wife and I, though both healthy, would be medically classified as immunocompromised. Shifting my practice to a mobile service doing house calls resolves none of these dilemmas. It only requires one contact with an asymptomatic carrier to become infected and then the possibility exists of spreading the virus to my family, or others in the larger community. New information could change my current thinking. Meanwhile, I give thanks for this life, the health of my family, the and the contributions of all the essential workers at my local grocery store, the mailman and delivery people and my neighbors – especially the children and the elderly, and the endless gifts of nature.
I am still available for telehealth consultations by phone or Zoom (via appointment on my website), and am offering guided meditation on Zoom every Wednesday evening at 7pm. While I can’t predict when the clinic will reopen, I have no thought of retiring! I hold you all in my heart with kindness and thoughts of abundant health in my prayers and will continue to invest much of my time in social and environmental justice movements for a livable future for all.