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Conversation, Diet, and Exercise - Medicines in their own right

“It is not we who abandon life, but life that leaves us when we do not follow the Way.”*

The ancient texts of Chinese medicine don’t just out with “put the needle here” or “use Moxa there.” First there are hundreds of characters describing Right Living. Before we place a needle, or light a match, we are to examine the lifestyle. Does the patient rest as much as they work? Do they eat a diet balanced among the five flavors? Do they poison the body with exposure to environmental toxins, stagnant emotions, or other substances like alcohol? If all of these conditions are optimized and the patient still does not attain health, then and only then are we supposed to intervene with more invasive treatments, like acupuncture, moxibustion, and herbal medicine.

Of course, this isn’t the way the medicine is commonly practiced today. If my patient were Michael Phelps, I couldn’t just tell him to swim less and stay away from the cold to address his shoulder pain! He came to the treatment, paid me, to be able to swim more, not to be told to swim less.

So in modern practice, we see the lifestyle block and we often do our best to look past it and to treat what the patient is asking for.

This pandemic has separated us from our patients, though. Gone are the days of being able to just put a needle here, some moxa there, and free up the shoulder!

So what is an acupuncturist to do?

We’re back to the question of Right Living.

It is the primary tool we have. It is what we have to offer a deathly sick society.

To sit and listen, reflecting back to the patient the brilliance that they have within them, and to remind them that it is there, shining, all the time.

To remind them they have the power to heal, and to help them access this power through right activity, diet, and acupressure.

Now is our society’s time of great need. Chinese medicine is here for you. Acupuncturists are armed to combat these interesting times with ancient wisdom, an open heart, and compassionate listening. Our needles are not our only tools.