There is a quote from a Native woman, that I have tried to no avail to find, where she says something along the lines of this:
"If you come because you think you can help me, you're wasting your time. If you come because you realize that my fate is entwined with yours, then let us walk together."The health of the planet and the health of each of us individually are all interdependent. To think otherwise is delusion. The quote above was in regards to white men people coming to this Native woman's land, with the best of intentions, to help them- to economize, industrialize, and civilize them. The quote can, however, also be applied in a doctor/patient relationship.
Lisa Rohleder, author of The Remedy: Integrating Acupuncture into American Health Care, discusses the traditional use of acupuncture in ancient and modern China. Acupuncture is, essentially "applied Taoism," "the millenia-old practice of inserting fine needles at specific points in the body for the purpose of cultivating health or alleviating symptoms." The procedure operates on the meridians of energy throughout the body, which may get stuck from time to time, or flow excessively. The traditional practice of acupuncture is done in a group setting. This may come as a bit of a shock to most people in the "Western" world. The thought of having medical treatment in the presence of others- even the idea of talking openly about most medical problems makes people uneasy. We have been raised in a society based on the value of the individual versus the group. American culture silences the masses in favor of single "representatives," and competition is encouraged while collaboration is termed "cheating." We're taught to be obsessed with "beating the Jones's" and "one-upmanship." Sacrifice for the greater good is reserved for martyrs- which has become a bad word.
We've gotten so caught up in ourselves, we forget our context- our community, the web in which we're spun. Community acupuncture is a humbling and uplifting experience. It empowers patients to recognize that we are not alone in our struggles, whether they may be with back pain, diabetes, or athlete's foot. Words like "depression," or "cancer," are welcomed in volumes outside of the range of whisper, and allows for a community of healing to emerge.
But that's not all community acupuncture does...
The format of community based healing is an important resistance to the unsustainable, inequitable, inaccessible and ultimately detrimental health care system in the States. Rohleder states, "If American health care were a patient, it would be suffering from a systemic infection of greed and bureaucracy. Its prognosis is not good." From the time we are born (depending on the circumstances of the birth; from natural home and/or water births, to mainstream medical intervention, to caesarian sections), we outsource our health to a doctor. We devalue the innate healing capacities of our bodies by placing more trust in a white coat- which ultimately leads to dependence on medical intervention from prescription drugs to surgeries, and financial hardship. Community based acupuncture, which operates on a sliding scale depending on your income (no questions asked), makes healthcare affordable and sustainable.
After one of my recent community acupuncture treatments, I was talking with the acupuncturists, thanking her for her work. She responded by telling me,
"All I do is put the needles in and walk out, it's the room and you who do all the work."Community based healing blurs the line between healer and healed, and while I think it definitely takes a special kind of healthcare practitioner to confront his/her ego, I would say that wouldn't be a bad thing for the healthcare industry either.