Reflections From a Forced Hiatus, Part II

Just last Thursday, my podiatrist released me from care, and I am so happy to be back at the clinic, seeing all of your lovely faces, and hearing about your lives! I really missed all of the interaction while I was at home recovering from my bicycle accident.

Last month, I shared how much I learned from this experience and the lessons keep coming. Certainly acupuncture and herbs really helped me deal with pain and swelling and supported my bones in healing, but there were many other things that really made a positive difference.  If you have had a similar experience or know someone with an injury, I wanted to share what helped me through.

In general, I operate on the belief that “you don’t give to get.” You do what you do without expecting anything in return. So I was awed by the care so many of you showed me when this happened. My accident occurred blocks away from the clinic. After Ayla picked me up, two long-time patients, who had arrived for their appointments that day, thought nothing of loading me and my broken foot into their car and taking me to urgent care. They stayed with me through the entire process of x-rays and assessment, then took me home and helped me get settled. It was so kind and such a relief to have people I have known for 5 years taking care of me. I am a little embarrassed to admit that it was unexpected, though perhaps, it shouldn’t have been.

During this process, others offered help, though I was a bit shy of taking them up on it. I--like many people--find it very difficult to ask for help. If someone you know is in a similar situation, keep this in mind; they may need it more than they know and just may find it hard to ask or even accept. Sincerely offering help and being ready to follow through counts!

My spirit was buoyed by the many get well cards I received. In our days of social media and virtual everything, paper cards are so touching. I arranged them like you might holiday cards, keeping them around to inspire me to fully recover. It was healing to know I was loved and missed in my darkest moments. Physical injuries have an emotional component--important to remember and acknowledge with people you know who are suffering.

Emails, texts, along with Facebook and Instagram messages were also nice too. Being housebound and immobile was so isolating, so when my phone would register a text or email, it broke up many hours of being alone with my thoughts. Connecting with those who are injured can feel like a balm to them, and any form they can access is likely welcome, so don’t assume you will be bothering them.

Some sent flowers, which were a bright, happy addition to my healing environment. Friends stopped by with food and conversation--truly welcome for our whole household. My dear spouse lovingly bore the brunt of caregiving; still, he was glad to have a few meals taken care of that he didn’t have to prepare.

There were many jokes about Netflix binges, and while I am no purist when it comes to this, I saved it for evenings. I indulged my acupuncture nerdiness with some new books on the subject, but I could only read so much of this, as not being able to practice in the moment easily triggered my sadness at not treating people.

I read various books on mindfulness and meditation: Tara Brach’s Radical Acceptance (2003), Haemin Sunim’s Love for Imperfect Things (2018) and The Things You Can See Only When You Slow Down (2017)--all of which helped me accept my current situation.

For entertainment, I read Tara Westover’s Educated (2018), Barbara Ehrenreich’s Natural Causes (2018), and I am still working through Lian Moriarty’s Nine Perfect Strangers (2018).

Switching from reading to listening, I found certain podcasts mentally nourishing: Tara Brach’s offered a true life-line for self-reflection; Shankar Vedantum’s “Hidden Brain” informed and entertained, and Krista Tippett’s “On Being” provided an amazing mix of interviews that inspired.

I did crossword puzzles and made a healing vision card of healthy right feet doing activities I planned to return to. I even signed up to participate in a five day bicycle ride in September that raises money for the California Bicycle Coalition to ensure I would get back on my bike.

While my injury is one that healed, other people you know may be living with a disability every single day. Consider what you might do to make their lives a little easier and a little less isolating. If you have had a similar experience, I’d love to hear what helped you heal. Our office manager, Ayla, loves the Ram Dass quote, “We’re all just walking each other home.” Indeed, we are. How can you do that for someone you know? Even someone you don’t know so well?

Reflections From a Forced Hiatus

Since opening LBCA in 2013, I have rarely had to cancel shifts. Other than our scheduled vacation breaks, I took a week off when my father died in 2017 and more recently I had to call off my first day back in 2019 due to a cold I caught over Christmas. Since January 25, I have largely been immobile and housebound after breaking 3 bones in my right foot on my way to work. The injury required surgery, along with strict instructions to bear no weight for at least 5 weeks.

          This change was abrupt, ending a daily routine I have enjoyed for almost 6 years. Like my foot, my sense of independence and ego was also fractured. This forced hiatus has yielded insights, surprises, and much appreciation. People sent cards and well wishes via email and social media, and I must admit it was nice to be missed. Some even brought flowers and books to the clinic for me. The wonderful people who work at LBCA really stepped up to cover extra shifts and not complain as their income was adversely affected by my own absence.

            I have never had an injury so debilitating and the emotional side of this situation was truly a surprise. While I have felt blessed and loved, I have also felt very isolated and depressed at times. It is a great lesson in the physical and psychological complexities of injury, illness, and disease. As a healthcare provider, I am aware that physical pain comes with an emotional component, but the feelings of uselessness and dependence were a genuine surprise to me. And still, I have been lucky in my life--this injury will heal--while many people will continue living with disabilities that will not and others must navigate the enormous challenges of terminal illness.

            As I was lying around recuperating, I thought a lot about the daily work of treating patients and missed it. I also thought about the probability of accidents and just how much uncertainty there is in life and in small business. My mind kept returning to the characteristics of successful entrepreneurs that Lisa Rohleder identifies in Acupuncture Points are Holes: A Case Study in Social Entrepreneurship (2017). Like most community clinic owners, she and I have very little formal business training. Neither one of us necessarily wanted to open businesses but we had to create our own jobs in order to practice acupuncture in a way that rings true to our values. Of the qualities she enumerates, Rohleder includes “a tolerance for risk and uncertainty” (8).

            The realization that she possessed these characteristics came only in hindsight, as she remembers a devastating personal loss that occurred long before she even thought about being an acupuncturist. It is a poignant moment emphasizing the fact that anything you have or have worked for can be taken away from you in an instant. No amount of planning will guarantee any security over your life as you know it. Her clinic WCA (Working Class Acupuncture) is the original community clinic that spurred this movement of promoting affordable acupuncture. WCA remains successful, treating upwards of 50,000 patients a year. Rohleder admits she couldn’t have imagined this successful outcome and certainly didn’t realize that enduring the loss of a dear friend so many years earlier would inform her business acumen.

Embracing uncertainty and taking risks requires great courage. And sometimes things happen and leave you with very little choice. This experience has shown me--like no other could--how successful LBCA has become and not just because of me. Sure, we’ve had to limit hours but treatments continue, week after week, with or without me. And that is a great thing!

Acknowledging the Love in Community Acupuncture

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“Being together we learn to understand and allow the process of community to transform us.” Gururas Khalsa, Seminole Heights Community Acupuncture

If you haven’t picked up and read the book Acupuncture is Like Noodles, which is available in our waiting room, then please do. The book is the origin story of community acupuncture clinics and, according to Ann Mongeau, L.Ac., a former family nurse practitioner and nursing educator, “[the book] offers a vision of how health care should be: honest, straightforward, accessible, affordable, uncomplicated and based on a relationship of mutual trust and respect.” With this in mind, I am inspired to pause and reflect on how these ideas play out in our clinic.

For example, we treat in a common area as this allows us to share acupuncture with more people and to keep our fees low. New patients often find this hard to believe. They ask if our acupuncturists are licensed. They are. They ask about hidden fees. There are none. They ask if the service changes based on what they pay. It doesn’t. And when they ask about the community treatment room, I smile to myself as I think on how best to articulate the special kind of magic that happens here. Here are just a handful of stories that come to mind:

  • One day, a sweet patient exited the treatment room and closed the door ever so quietly and carefully; she remarked that everyone in the treatment room looked so peaceful and she didn’t want to disturb them.

  • A new patient came to our clinic and was very nervous about his first ever acupuncture treatment. As he waited, three patients exited at the same time and shared in passing how much they “needed that” and how wonderful their “acu-naps” were. He looked over to me and smiled, I saw his shoulders instantly lower as he started to relax and feel more settled.

  • One night, a patient brought in a bag of lemons. I couldn’t possibly take all of them, so she offered them to other patients arriving and departing. Soon, I witnessed a beautiful, happy-hearted conversation between four strangers as they expressed a love for fresh fruit and exchanged recipe ideas for lemon cupcakes, bars, and cookies.

  • On a Saturday, a mother and daughter came in to honor the passing of a loved one and we chatted about loss and the processing that follows. Before heading in, the daughter shared with me an uplifting story about how she helped her little one understand death and grief. After they headed into the treatment room, another patient looked over with reluctant tears in her eyes, “that’s exactly what I needed to hear today”.

I don’t know about you, but moments like these leave me feeling full and warm-hearted at the end of a day. It’s uplifting to see strangers come together to sit in stillness and heal; to have a chat now and then; and to be sweet to one another because, to quote Ram Dass, “we’re all just walking each other home”.

So this month, the month so often associated with romantic love, consider for a moment the countless other forms of love. Love from friends, family, and pets, as well as love within your community. Allow community the chance to transform you and I think you’ll be surprised at how quickly the world becomes a brighter place.

Acknowledging the Source

There is much to celebrate in the upcoming holiday season. In this time of giving and gratitude, I want to add another to your list--Dr. Miriam Lee. Her birthday is December 8 and she would have been 92 years old. She is an important figure for community acupuncture and Chinese medicine in general. She is directly responsible--along with Governor Jerry Brown--for making acupuncture legal to practice in California. This happened in 1976.

 

Two years earlier she had actually been arrested for treating patients without a license. It is a great story, really, as the patients who filled her office daily, also filled the courtroom “to protest being denied access to the only medicine which had helped them, and to insist that they had a right to choose to be treated with acupuncture” (xii, author’s preface, Insights from a Senior Acupuncturist). At one point, when she was treating out of her home, so many people were waiting on her staircase that it broke!

 

As community acupuncturists, we hold her in high regard as one of our Liberation Ancestors. The way she had to learn to treat--given the demand for her services--informs how community clinics are set up and often we use the protocol she developed. She created a simple, effective needling strategy to handle the high volume of people seeking treatment. In her memoir, Insights of a Senior Acupuncturist (1992), she explains “By 5 AM there were 4 or 5 people waiting in their cars to get in. So for 7 hours a day, 5 days a week, I saw between 75 and 80 patients a day, 14 to 17 patients an hour” (x).

 

Her main protocol was a set of 5 points, used bilaterally: Large Intestine 11 and 4, Lung 7, Spleen 6, and Stomach 36. When we use it, we happily document this in our charts as ML 10. Often I am asked if we can treat more than one condition at a time and my answer is always yes. Perhaps it is better to focus on 1 or 2 things rather than 5 or 6, but acupuncture is powerful. I love its simplicity and elegance to stimulate change and self-healing in the body. All the points are multi-functional and are often doing things beyond what I am intending to use them to treat.

 

Miriam Lee died on June 24, 2009. From what I hear, she was a humble and rare teacher and I am so grateful for her generosity in sharing what she learned with others. She was a life-long student herself, always studying to get better to help her patients. I have had the good fortune and time to study with one of her main students, Susan Johnson, LAc, who continues to share Miriam’s legacy and also what she learned directly from working in Lee’s busy clinic.

 

I am grateful for ancestors like these and grateful to the People’s Organization of Community Acupuncture (POCA) who are engaged with social justice, who shine a light on the radical history of acupuncture, and who developed and openly shared how to create the healing spaces of community clinics.

Clinic Move & Policy Changes

Long Beach Community Acupuncture has moved to 1703 Termino Avenue, Unit 104, in Long Beach!

Here’s what you need to know:

Fee Changes: Starting October 15 our sliding scale fee will begin at $20 and range to $50. The $10 initial consultation fee remains the same. However, our “no-show” and “late cancellation fee” will rise to $20 as well. Like all medical practices, we save your appointment time just for you and rarely recoup the loss of revenue when someone misses a scheduled appointment. We appreciate your thoughtful scheduling and understanding of this policy.

Appointments Only: We will only accept patients with appointments. As our chair space is limited in our new building, we do not have extra room for walk-in patients or people bringing friends or family not on the schedule. Please make sure you get a confirmation email and a reminder email stating your appointment time. If you don’t, the appointment probably wasn’t booked correctly. Be sure to check spam and junk mail too! And, if you haven’t refreshed your Schedulicity app, then be sure to do so, as it will update all availability.

Resting Times: We have always guaranteed an hour-long rest and will continue that service. Longer times will not be possible, given our limited space. As always, we require at least a 30 minute rest for the needles to do their work, so make sure and give yourself enough time to receive the most benefit.

Schedule Changes: Our treatment schedule includes some significant changes. We will be open from 10 am to 6 pm, Monday through Wednesday and we will no longer be closed through lunch. Fridays and Saturdays will remain open from 10 am to 2 pm, with Susan and Nirva alternating those days. The new schedule follows:

Monday - 10 am to 6 pm (Nirva a.m. & Susan p.m.)

Tuesday - 10 am to 6 pm (Susan a.m. & Nirva p.m.)

Wednesday - 10 am to 6 pm (Nirva a.m. & Susan p.m.)

Thursday - 1 pm to 5 pm (Susan)

Friday - 10 am to 2 pm (alternating practitioners)

Saturday - 10 am to 2 pm (alternating practitioners)

New Services with Susan will be offered on Thursdays from 1 pm to 5 pm. On this day we will begin offering acupuncture with add-ons (like cupping, gua sha, and other specialized needle techniques). These appointments are limited and can only be scheduled by phone. These add-on modalities will be a flat fee of $60, while acupuncture will still be from our sliding scale of $20 - $50. 

A Message from Susan:

After five years and over 30,000 treatments in the East Village Arts District, we have made the decision to change our location. There's no question that 301 Atlantic, Unit D, has been a great place to start and grow our practice. We know that some of our regulars are downtown folks, and that this move is going to change your easy access to the clinic. 

The good news is that we are still going to be in Long Beach, and our phone number and email address remain the same. Our updated address is 1703 Termino Avenue, unit 104, Long Beach, CA 90804. Free parking is available in the lot of our building and there is also plenty of nearby, unmetered street parking.

If you want to see some pictures of the stages of transformation in the new place, you can  click here to view our progress! We are very excited!

Thanks for your patience during our transition and your support over the last 5 years. We look forward to seeing you in the new space!

with love and gratitude,

The LBCA Team (Nirva, Ayla, Dulce, Deneke, Susan, and F.D. Panda)

Want to learn more? Read a blog post from Susan. In it, she reflects on the past five years and shares her vision for what's to come.

More About the New Space

Our new office is only three miles away from our current one and is conveniently located within a medical suite (with all kinds of practitioners, such as a chiropractor, general practitioner, pharmacist, gynecologist, esthetician, psychiatrist, and more!). It's also near Memorial Care Health System, Kaiser, and other medical buildings. It also offers ample parking, beautiful Eucalyptus trees, and a safer surrounding neighborhood.

OUR NEW ADDRESS:

 

1703 TERMINO AVENUE

UNIT 104 

LONG BEACH, CA, 90804

FINDING US

BY CAR: Our new location offers ample parking, so our patients are welcome to drive and park in our lot. (Uber and Lyft are also great options if you're in a hurry or simply want to relax on your way to acupuncture.)

BY BIKE: Long Beach is a bike-friendly city, with multiple bike routes to try. 

BUS: if you live in the East Village, then use the map at right to find the bus option that works best for you (most options do not require a transfer and take a total of 30 minutes).