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.

Healing in Community

Many social workers, massage therapists, and psychotherapists I’ve spoken with over the years—like acupuncturists—pursue the healing arts because we need healing ourselves. On February 3 of this year, my father died from cancer. He had been battling the disease since 2013 and was, in fact, diagnosed right around the time I signed the lease to open Long Beach Community Acupuncture.

He lived in Texas, and the distance compounded by invasive treatments from radiation and chemotherapy, to surgery and more chemo have been—to say the least—stressful for me. Living with a cancer diagnosis and treatment is a strange trip of intensity for caregivers and patients; it is a flux of emotions and physical symptoms with good and bad days. These past few years have been delineated by periods of shock and sadness, then those of waiting and hoping for optimal outcomes.

Working in this clinic daily has been a great source of healing for me as well as many others. We’ve given over 19,000 treatments to date. I am amazed at the sheer number of treatments and even more so at how much healing I’ve drawn from this environment. It was not something I expected.

Work that one enjoys is a salutary well. I have been soothed and comforted from treating people over and over; it comes in the form of the brief, casual conversations of our lives as I get the pins in and also in the successes we share in having symptoms improve if not resolve completely.

It was a conversation with a long-time patient that enabled me to take good leave of my father before he died and to appreciate how he had influenced my life choices in ways I could not recognize before. While another patient, who helps me clean the clinic sometimes, encouraged me to visit him multiple times in the final months of his life—not a simple choice as a business owner—but I did. Those last visits created some of my most cherished memories of him now. At the same time, our staff stepped in to cover for me, keeping the clinic open and accessible to patients while I was gone.

I wanted to share this at the time of our expansion of hours because our clinic staff and patients have been such an unbelievable source of support and these changes reflect the strength of LBCA.  It is difficult to estimate the value of a good team but we have one and I am grateful to you all. There is strength in numbers and healing in community.

Year of the Fire Rooster

Happy Lunar New Year!

Here we are, with another turning of the zodiac wheel taking us out of the Fire Monkey and into the year of the Fire Rooster. Transitioning from a year of what seemed like the universe playing a joke on us, the Fire Rooster cuts through the noise with a clear directive.

The Chinese Lunar New Year falls on the second New Moon after the Winter Solstice, which was January 28th this year. Each lunar year pairs a Taoist element (earth, wood, metal, water, fire) with one of the 12 zodiac animals. Each element has a two-year cycle, and we are currently on the second fire year!

The first year of fire followed two elemental wood years. So, if you can imagine a forest fire, and the wild transmutation of the energy from old growth wood, paired with the unpredictable monkey energy, that is what we had last year. This year's fire is said to be more contained, focused, and direct. A fire with purpose. A fire for creation, for lighting the way, for action.

Now with this specific fire paired with Rooster, we get the energy of this year. Rooster comes with strength in resolve, leadership, and integrity. Calling us to turn our fears into fuel. To use our voice, to speak our truth. This is not the year to stay small or quiet--the year of the Fire Rooster encourages us to rise up and sing to the morning sun.

Traditionally, Roosters carried the medicine of forecasting. Their songs to the sun are believed to call in the spirit of tomorrow, and they awaken the dreamers to the new dawn. The habit of hitting snooze is no longer an option--it is time to wake up and shift our dreams into reality.

Rooster brings organized leadership with concern for the whole. With an eye on threats to equity, they don't back down from a challenge. They are believed to be careful and methodical planners, creating the blueprint for achieving long term goals. Rooster's consistent crows of encouragement remind us to keep our eye on the prize, to not get discouraged, and to stay mindfully awake.

Despite Rooster's strengths, it is important to note the shadow side of Fire Rooster, which we can recognize in our current political paradigm. Overly concerned about outward appearance, Fire Rooster's shadow lashes out against any critic who challenges their sense of self-worth. Fire Rooster's shadow reacts from a place of insecurity, burning bridges instead of building them.

Whereas Fire Rooster energy can bring medicine to those that struggle with finding their voice, the extreme end of the spectrum unconsciously allows for hurtful speech. Fire Rooster's shadow talks to hear itself talk, talks over others, and believes its voice to be the only one worth listening to. Fire Rooster's shadow can be egotistic, overly harsh, critical, and blunt. Fire Rooster's shadow is a bully.

How, then, can we find the truth in the shadow side? How do we utilize the conscious Fire Rooster energy as a tool for transformation?

We have never needed the energy of Fire Rooster as much as we do now. As a sleeping nation, Fire Rooster is a call to action. A wake-up call. To rise up for restorative justice. To be organized and unafraid. A directive to use our voice, speak our truth, and call in the tomorrow we envision for our communities today.