Resilience, Routines, and Healing

As an acupuncturist, it is easy to forget that what I do is weird: Sticking needles into someone’s skin—a stranger’s—with the intention of relieving discomfort either of the mental or physical variety, and usually a little bit of both. Perhaps even weirder is that people I’ve never met before let me do that and that they are more than willing to do so in a group. And I am grateful that they do.

I am grateful that they are doing this all across the country in hundreds of community acupuncture clinics like LBCA.

Attending POCAfest last weekend in Tucson, Arizona, sharpened my perspective on the bizarre act of acupuncture, the nature of resilience, and the all too common experience of pain. Resilience is a quality that enables people to survive personal challenges that seem insurmountable and to be resilient is an act or many small acts repeated over and over—a process.

The keynote address had much to say about this quality for small business owners, POCA as an acupuncture organization, and also how it plays out in our treatment rooms. Lisa Rohleder explains it this way, “Resilience in the treatment room is not about the miracle cure, the one extraordinary moment that fixes everything. Every once in a while a miracle will happen with acupuncture, but you can’t count on it and you’d better not wait for it. You’re better off if you focus on incremental improvements, small gains that build on each other, coping with stress, creating a better quality of life.

Sometimes the process of resilience can be hard to recognize since we live in a culture that craves glamour and drama, demands quick fixes, and rejects natural processes like aging, birthing, and dying. Healing is not glamorous. It often begins with lots of damage and most of the time it takes awhile. Someone at the conference (I can’t remember who) reminded us that if pain were easy to treat, then there wouldn’t be so many people in pain everywhere. Indeed, think of the state Big Pharma would be in if this were the case.

In the short life of LBCA, I’ve seen a lot of resilient people, showing up again and again, chipping away at long-term health issues, making gains and finding deep rest and support with others. One person suffering from fibromyalgia finally found relief with the insertion of these tiny needles; another battling life-long social anxiety has gained the upper hand in dealing with debilitating thoughts and behaviors. Still other people with complicated issues like neuropathy and Parkinson’s have used this clinic for relief. None of these situations has improved dramatically overnight, but there is always progress.

Traveling to Arizona took me out of my daily routine, if only for the weekend. It helped me think more clearly about my goals for this clinic and this healing community. Life requires resilience and we never know just how much we are capable of.

Maybe LBCA can be that break in your daily routine, to clarify your perspective. Or maybe it can become part of your routine of resilience, helping you show up for your life, giving you a deep well to drink from, as a place for community and healing.