As a community acupuncturist, I have the privilege of trying to help people with their health problems. But as I’ve often commented, I try not to see myself as a Helper – a medical professional reeking with the white coated doctor syndrome. With his superior intellectual knowledge, he stands on his ego pedestal looking down at you. Not very empowering or healing. A good acupuncturist or doctor is a good listener first and foremost, so if any of what I have to share – and I do like sharing a lot – rubs you the wrong way. Feel free to ignore it, delete it, or otherwise forget it.
Several years ago, while being prepped for my first ever MRI inside the subterranean caverns of a modern hospital, I suddenly felt a longing to be walking barefoot through a virgin forest of tall cedars and furs, with verdant moss carpeting the earth, the tangy smell of salty air and the roar of ocean surf nearby. I was employing my imagination to make up for the complete absence of nature in the concrete tomb of endless rectilinear hallways and sterile odorless air. The doctor and nurse were cordial, filling my ear with light-hearted chatter. However, when he informed me he was going to inject “a chemical cocktail” into my knee joint in order to give a contrast dye to the imaging technique, I retreated to my inner wilderness in order to relax and release my mind.
“Do your best not to contract your quadriceps….if you tighten your muscles, that locks the patella and prevents the needle from entering into the joint space,” the doctor said. Sounds logical, and despite the unpleasant sensation of a 20 gauge hollow needle being jammed into my body, I think I did pretty well. At CommuniChi, by comparison, we use 38 gauge acupuncture needles (about the diameter of a human hair), and they are solid instead of hollow, so instead of cutting tissue as a hypodermic inevitably does, a skillful acupuncturist can practically slide them in between the cells of your body.
“First, relax and release your mind.” These words of advice from the 18th century Buddhist master, Patrul Rinpoche, are termed “pith instructions” to attain the state of complete peace and inner freedom. We all yearn for peace and freedom – individually, and globally. And while sometimes it may seem hopeless and overwhelming amidst the overwhelming tsunami of negativity that passes for “news”, I’d like to suggest that the first step is to practice relaxing and releasing our mind.
How do we relax and release the mind? We need to slow down every day and just breathe, look at the infinite blue sky (assuming we’re not in Seattle on a typical winter’s day!), put down our to-do list and just be. Forgot how to do that? Come in for acupuncture if you need a reminder.
If enough of us humans could get a handle on this simple mental yoga and make it a habit like brushing our teeth every day, then a wave of relaxed energy would sweep over the planet and in the aftershocks of compassion and love which followed, poverty, hunger, war, and other ills would begin to disappear. Of course, global peace and healing will also require more than consciousness change. It will take real toil and sweat on our brows, but meanwhile, let’s start feeling good in our bodies and minds while we work together towards that goal.