“Chinese medicine has never differentiated between the mind, the body, and the emotions… they’re all one in this medicine. What affects one affects all, and all affect one.” – Rebeca E. Davila
Somedays, acupuncture seems like straight up magic. I have tried numerous different therapies and healing modalities, and acupuncture is the one that had the most distinct and profound effect on me. I felt more calm, centered, and grounded than I had in years after only one treatment. Acupuncture has a long history and millennia of development. It has learned to diagnose the entire body with the tongue and treat the entire body with the ear. (This is my new favorite fun fact about acupuncture). It is beautifully complex yet simple and undeniably wise.
Most of us are familiar with the concept of acupuncture at its simplest – sticking very small needles into the skin in specific places (points) to send a message to the body with the intention of helping it use its own resources to release, heal, and grow. However, there’s a whole lot that goes into this process. Acupuncturists can receive clues about you from the shape of your face, the color of your tongue, the temperature at different points of your body, your radial pulses, and of course, what you tell them. This information communicates to them how your different organ systems are functioning and where balance might be missing. From here, they will pick different points along the various energetic meridians, or channels, in your body to use the needles. You’ll then lie there for a while feeling the magic (aka chi) flow through your body and do what it needs to do.
Beyond the mechanics of a treatment, there’s some pretty rad philosophy in the world of TCM. The foundation of it all lies in the understanding of chi – the life force energy that brings existence and connection. Rebeca says it so simply: “It’s what makes trees grow.” Stemming from this is TCM’s inherent belief in interdependence, meaning that nothing is all one thing. Nothing is solely good or solely bad. Nothing is completely separate from any other thing. The body is one complete being and the separate parts we talk about are just descriptors. We see this in the classic representation of yin and yang. There is always some of the fiery yang in the cooler yin, and vice versa.
These beliefs are a big part of what makes acupuncture so special. It is rooted in thousands of years of holistic beliefs. When you receive an acupuncture treatment from an acupuncturist who also holds these beliefs, you are benefiting from many lifetimes of wisdom. You are being treated as a person who holds many parts that are all inextricably related, and as a being in this world connected to every other. The fact that this ancient wisdom runs through every bit of an acupuncture treatment is my favorite part of it all.
I know all this is super cool now you’re probably dying to go read some ancient TCM texts, but I bet some of you might be wondering why one might seek acupuncture in the first place. Well, the short answer is anything and everything. Acupuncture can be helpful in all kinds of mental health struggles (I sought it specifically for help with anxiety). Many people find that it is helpful in trauma work, pain relief, and overall well being. In this episode, Rebeca and I talk specifically about how acupuncture is used for mental health, but don’t let that stop you from exploring!
Have more questions on the basics of acupuncture? Tune in! In this first part of our conversation, we talk more in depth about the key concepts of acupuncture I mentioned here and more. We cover what goes into a treatment and the ideas unique to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) that inform it. Rebeca shares her experience as an acupuncturist and the incredible connection that can exist in that space. In part two of our chat, you can look forward to a more in depth discussion of how you can apply these ideas to your own life whether or not you are seeing an acupuncturist. We were having a blast and I couldn’t bear to stop after just an hour!
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- Vida Acupuncture
- Treating Emotional Trauma with Chinese Medicine, Integrated Diagnostic Treatment Strategies by CT Holman
- Tracking the Dragon, Advanced Channel Theory, An Acupuncture Text by Dr. Janice Hadlock, DAOM
- Dragon Rises, Redbird Flies: Psychology and Chinese Medicine by Leon Hammer