I have the best job in the world. As an acupuncturist, I have a parade of lovely, interesting people who come through my clinic looking for help and healing. As an acupuncturist, I get to use the tools of an ancient healing tradition called Chinese medicine. These tools include acupuncture, Chinese herbs, body work, food therapy, and healthy lifestyle traditions.
One of the best parts of what I do is that I learn a little something from each and every patient who comes in through my door. Some of those lessons are uneventful, but some are profound. Here is a short list of some of the incredible things I have learned from my patients:
-Aging is a state of mind. I have had people in my clinic in their 60’s who seemed very old. I have also had a number of 80 and 90-year olds who have appeared to be much younger and more vital than their age would indicate. The difference? Those people who are aging so well have a love for life. They get out of their house, they’re active, they have places to go and things to do. This is not to say they don’t have health problems; they do. However, they are somehow able to stay active, engaged, and upbeat despite their health issues.
-Your emotions are the key to your health. The Chinese have a saying that the emotions are the root of 100 illnesses. I have found this to be true in the clinic. Chinese medicine is all about treating the root of an illness, and in the majority of my patients, that root is emotional in nature. Strong emotions, such as anger, depression, fear, anxiety, grief, and intense longing have the ability to affect your health, causing symptoms as diverse as insomnia to digestive problems.
-Never make assumptions. That ass of u and me thing is so right! Whether it’s a patient’s ability to heal, their willingness to change unhealthy habits, or their ability to pay me for my services, more often than not when I have made an assumption, I have been wrong.
-Unless you change the behaviors that are making you sick, you will never heal completely. This may include a funky diet, an overwhelming lifestyle, working too hard, and stressful relationships, to name a few. Remember, Chinese medicine is effective because it gets at what’s really making you sick. If you’re unwilling to change, you’re going to stay…uh, sick.
-Shut up and listen. This has been a hard lesson for me. However, over time I have learned that if I just close my mouth and really hear what my patients are saying, they will tell me exactly what I and my patient need for them to heal. Part B of this lesson is that most people already know what’s making them sick. From the man who was “trying to fight his way out of a wet paper bag” (damp heat) to the woman who just needed a dark, quiet place (Yin deficiency), if I just open my ears, they will tell me what’s going on.
-There is no magic bullet to better health. Many years ago, a woman* came to me for help with weight loss. She had tried every diet under the sun, but couldn’t lose the weight. I treated her and began talking about dietary therapy and some lifestyle tweaks. She came back for her second appointment and told me that she hadn’t lost any weight, and that she would not be coming back to me. People, Chinese medicine is an incredibly effective system of health and healing, however, you have to give it time and help it along. Geez…
-The best thing you can do to improve your health is to exercise regularly. Simple. Exercise improves your mood, reduces stress, improves the health of your heart, brings your blood pressure down, and keeps you young. I have seen patients completely turn their health around simply by adding exercise to their routine (plus the acupuncture, of course!)
-Learning is never complete. I will never know everything. Every patient that I see teaches me something, and I thank each and every one for their insight, lessons, and confidence in my ability to help them.
*Names and identifying details have been changed.