Shining a Light

When my husband and I set out for our vacation, we weren't trying to see the eclipse. We were just seeking some solitude in the peaceful National Forests of Nevada before we made our way to Salt Lake City for POCAfest, a gathering of community acupuncture clinic owners and workers.

Being out in a remote area, we thought we might see something even though we were way out of the path of totality and far from crowds. The morning of the eclipse, no one else was in our campground that was shaded by well-nourished cottonwood trees. We made an old-fashioned view-finder to check and see if we could determine any progress of the moon shading the sun.

We walked in the dappled light of trees, noticing how the cottonwood leaves reflected and refracted sunlight. Glowing crescents patterned the dirt, George took pictures, and we carried our view-finder, checking periodically but it showed nothing.

We continued our road trip, checking the sun throughout the day, then decided we had simply missed the eclipse. But once we got to POCAfest, four days later, we were talking to an acupunk who works at WCA in Portland. He happened to be in clinic that day and stepped outside to see it; he explained how the eclipse had also created an interesting pattern through tree leaves: shining semi-circles rimmed leaves and created beautiful shadow and light patterns on the ground. Turns out we HAD seen the eclipse, we just didn't recognize it!

It was a happy revelation and as I think of it now, a great metaphor for how POCA has been for me: shining a light on the obvious and not so obvious, and helping me recognize certain truths.

When I first discovered the community acupuncture model, my heart opened wide; it was a visceral feeling in my chest and I knew I had to practice that way in Long Beach. I didn't need to travel to another country to help underserved people, as there were plenty of people that needed help and access to affordable healthcare right where I live.

POCA helped me see and know that acupuncture doesn't need to be expensive to be effective. It helped me understand better how acupuncture works and how necessary frequent treatments can be to solve and manage difficult health problems. POCA taught me how to develop and grow LBCA and it continues to be a beacon for me, reminding me of my own privilege to practice this medicine.

Members of POCA, like Dr. Tyler Phan and Lisa Rohleder, remind me of the hidden histories of this medicine--the elders and activists who have been elided by the formal history of the profession: Miriam Lee, Mutulu Shakur, Ing "Doc" Hay, and Master Tung Ting Chang.

POCA is a constant source of education and enlightenment, advocating and practicing trauma-informed care and creating the idea of Liberation Acupuncture that draws from the practice of Liberation Theology. All of these ideas can be explored on POCA's website from the thoughtful radicals who have developed them.

It's a good tune-up for me to attend POCAfest when I can. This group of fearless practitioners is actively working to improve acupuncture education and the profession at large and it all begins within one's community. The co-operative ethos of POCA acknowledges mutualism: we need our patients as much as they need us. Together we can begin to address the real issues of pain and suffering that occur in our communities every day.