It had been many moons since I received an acupuncture treatment — until last week. It was much overdue! Unfortunately, it is fairly typical for most acupuncturists I know to scrimp on their own self care. Every time I decide to make time to get acupuncture I think, “Why am I not doing this more often?”
While the experience of getting an acupuncture treatment can be different for everyone, I want to describe my latest experience here for two reasons. First, to dispel some of the mystery and fear for those who have never had acupuncture before, and second to encourage self care for those who have been putting it off for too long. It really is worth it.
How Acupuncturists Treat Other Acupuncturists
Acupuncturists tend to trade treatments with each other. What this means is that the treatments often lack the “bells and whistles” you are likely to get as a real paying patient. There is a quick check to see what’s going on and then you get some needles without a whole lot of fanfare. But while we might get the short end of stick in the TLC and pampering department, what this quick and bare bones kind of treatment does reveal is the actual effect of just the needles.
The Importance of Self Awareness
Even though this was a bare bones treatment, the acupuncturist still asked how I was doing, took my pulse and looked at my tongue. This was helpful not only as a way to inform her of what points to use, but it also served as a check in for myself. Even though I had been feeling particularly stressed out, the simple questions she asked “How are you doing?” and “Do you have any aches or pains?” brought my attention into my body and made me realize that physically I actually felt quite good (something to be thankful for), and that emotionally, despite the stress I was under, I still felt whole and stable.
That simple pointed question of “How are you doing?” can bring a lot of self awareness into play. Taking a moment to assess how you are doing — finding that true awareness — is one of the biggest contributors to better choices and better health. Never underestimate the power of paying attention to your own state of well being.
The Gift of Being Seen
When she took my pulse she quickly made the comment, “You are not really in your body.” This observation was a surprise to me, but I realized she was right. I was so concerned with pushing through a stressful time, and trying to take care of others, that I had kind of vacated myself. A dangerous habit to get into. I felt thankful to her for noticing something I had no awareness of. It feels good to be seen — for someone else to provide their undivided attention even for just a brief moment and to join with you on a path dedicated to better health.
Fear of Needles
I must also say that even though I have no problem performing acupuncture on others — and actually the majority of people have no problem at all being needled — I myself am a needle ninny and a sensitive scaredy cat. I forget how afraid I actually am of being needled until I’m lying there on the table, feeling vulnerable waiting for the needles to be inserted. It’s a good reminder of how vulnerable my patients can feel. Trust is of the utmost importance — I need to know that I am in good hands. I carefully choose who I will allow to needle me. And I bring this understanding into my own practice.
So, as usual, the needles were quick and painless. Despite the noisy construction that was clearly audible in the street outside, a deep quiet came over me. Sweet stillness. Deep relaxation. It’s kind of like sleep but different. The body feels heavy, the eyes close, and time seems to both speed up and slow down at the same time.
As a practitioner, I feel I can clearly explain what’s happening during an acupuncture treatment. But as a patient, the experience is strange, powerful, and mysterious, and I am left in awe of the medicine, wondering “how in the world does this work?”
All the stress I had been feeling was replaced by a sense of wellbeing. Success. Thank you Chinese Medicine!
The time on the table was up quicker than I hoped. I felt like I wanted to stay on that table for six months. On the drive home I had the same sensation I get when I return from a real vacation. My mind was quiet, my body relaxed, and the feeling that whatever the stressors in my life they were now approachable and in the background — of course the stressors still existed, but my ability to put them into perspective and not make myself crazy worrying about things improved a great deal. I also noticed I had that sense of feeling that I had just done something good for myself. And that inspires me to continue to make good choices, keep the stress in check, and to take the time for regular self care so that I can continue caring for others!
As an acupuncturist, I know that one treatment is a good start, but to continue keeping myself healthy requires commitment. Regular treatments, regular exercise (see my post on exercise tips here), lots of fresh vegetables, and when needed, herbal medicine.
Commit yourself to better health. Make an acupuncture appointment today! Crow Heart Acupuncture & Chinese Herbs is gentle, affordable, and effective!
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