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15-Aug-2013 08:27 AM
Have you ever wondered what would happen if several top acupuncturists were to diagnose and set treatment plans for the same patient? Just such a thing took place about 25 years ago on stage at an acupuncture conference. I was in the audience that night and I wanted to share what I learned from that unique event. I don’t remember every detail such as the exact date and the name of one of the participants, but I hope you find the lessons I took away from that night helpful. If anyone reading this knows some of the details I missed, please share those here.
The conference was held in San Francisco sometime around 1987. Like many acupuncture conferences, this particular one had several well-known acupuncturists giving their own lectures on various topics but unlike any acupuncture conference I have seen or heard of since, this one carried-out a fascinating experiment when the conference ended. Several of the speakers got on stage together and were given the chance to examine a patient and then give the audience their findings and what their treatment recommendations would be.
The speakers included Ked Kaptchuk, the “Web That Has No Weaver” author and Harvard Medical school professor, J.R. Worsley,founder of the Western Five Element school of acupuncture, Kiiko Matsumotto, popular author and lecturer with Japanese style techniques, Joseph Helms, the M.D. who founded the American Academy of Medicinal Acupuncture and taught M.D.s an acupuncture course at UCLA, T.W. Woo, the inventor of the Korean Hand Acupuncture system, Tran Viet Dzung of the Vietnamese/French energetic school who substituted for Nguyen Van Nghi as his health prevented his traveling , and a TCM doctor from China whose name I do not recall. The patient was a young woman with a few common health issues (I don’t recall those specifics) and she had filled-out an extensive history form that the acupuncturists had the chance to review before they went on stage. Each was then given 5-10 minutes to do an exam and ask any questions they would like of the patient and then they we given 5 minute to explain to the audience their findings/diagnosis and their treatment recommendations. Pretty cool, huh? Guess what happened? Only two of them agreed with each other on the findings/diagnosis and that was the Chinese TCM doctor and Dr. Tran Viet Dzung who follows a similar school of thought. Each of the other five acupuncturists had quite different ways of describing this patient’s condition and advice for treatment.
As a young, super-enthusiastic practitioner, I was determined to take advantage of this unique event and made sure I was in the front row and as close as I could get to those taking part. In addition to listening carefully to what was said, I wanted to take-in the qi each was giving-off as best I could. I found myself thinking that each of those acupuncturists had a fascinating story behind how they came to be on that stage that night. None of them had followed a conventional path – all of them had taken an unusual career path and then had distinguished themselves within this unusual field. Most, if not all of them, had treated many patients and refined their knowledge of this healing art from their considerable successful experience. I wanted to understand what they had in common that helped them to be on that stage.
The first thing that impressed me was that all these practitioners had something in common and that was CONFIDENCE. They all were quite sure that the diagnosis and treatment recommendations they had offered was correct. None of them were saying “I defer to my esteemed colleague etc., etc.” They weren’t saying Dr. so-and- was wrong (although Kaptchuck and Worsley got into it a little bit, a little bad blood there perhaps) but they all seemed quite sure that they were on the right track. I also came to believe that all of them (except one maybe) were very compassionate and that they came to have their confidence because they spent years trying their best to help their patients and increase their expertise.
This experience helped me to realize that there is no “right” way to do this medicine or “best” knowledge that we should all be moving toward. I now sometimes tell my patients that acupuncture is more than 2,000 years old and there are more than 2,000 ways to do it. But even though there is no ultimately correct knowledge in diagnosis and treatment, there is something I feel is critical to being a skilled practitioners and that is in the quality of the practitioner’s intent. The best practitioners drive themselves to do the very best they can for their patients with whatever school of thought they may have gravitated towards or was trusted upon them. There are some basics to be learned but the details are less important than the sincerity behind ones actions. By spending years trying to refine your knowledge (whatever the details of that knowledge may be) you refine your qi. Then, when you carry-out the treatment, the points and techniques you choose will be the best because you are at your best. I am not saying the points don’t matter but that what matters is that they matter to you. Try your best to do your best and you will do your best. After 25 years I believe this more now than ever. That is why I don’t try to teach people “This is the right way to do this. You must follow these rules. “ I offer some of my favorite point combinations but I feel everyone needs to find their own way like a artist that can study other artists but must find their own style. Of course, I also teach the practical details of how to make a living doing this art in the real world setting of a private practice, but the rules behind the diagnosis and treatment prescription are like rules to any art – always open to interpretation and change.
I feel certain that any of those acupuncturists on that stage that night would have been successful helping that patient even though they had different takes on the diagnosis and how to proceed. All of them were sure they had the right stuff. That was what they all had in common. Any of you reading this that don’t have that kind of confidence need two thing: First, you need to have enough patients to work on so that you have the chance to find out what your affinities are – what seems to you to be the right path to take in refining your knowledge. No one can tell you what this path will be. Second, you need to be honest with yourself about how sincere you are in your desire to go deeply down that path. More than any other attribute, self-sincerity is the most crucial. Some of you who are struggling are doing so because this line of work is really not your thing. That is fine, of course, but don’t keep fooling yourself if this is not your passion. You will find too many complexities and contradictions and no clear “answers”. But if you love poking needles in people and seeing how wondrous natural healing can be, then learn what you need to learn to be able to make a living from this practice and find your art. If you do, you will be among the most blessed people on earth; one earning a nice living while helping others’ pain and suffering. If that is what you sincerely want – you can do it and I will help.
02-Sep-2013 08:09 PM
Zu San Li
That was a great story and I thank you for sharing it. It is very interesting how there are many ways to get to healing. I agree that intention is essential and just as we all have been on both sides of the treatment table, we just know if the person (Doctor, Therapist, Dentist, Surgeon, Practitioner, or Whoever) cares. That is something that can be sensed and felt. Every patient has their own individual needs for real healing and so much of that is the compassion, gentle touch, sincere concern and warmth that we can bring to whatever protocol we are applying. If we are confident in our ability and we are balanced and grounded with our qi, we will help them, that is something I have no doubt about.
This event reminded me of the varieties in pulse diagnosis as several practitioners all have different interpretations of the same pulse. As you stated it should be our goal to follow our own path and to create our own original work as this path is so much like the path of an artist continually developing and refining concepts and techniques. Each patient is like a fresh canvas that will be making it’s own statement. Even more so, it is a beautiful collaboration between two artists and when working in concert together they are stronger than alone. Our knowledge, skills, and techniques are essential tools that we bring to the table. And as you mention, just as important as those tools is our intention. Healing is a process and we are blessed to be carrying on a sacred tradition.
Thank you for what you are sharing on this forum. I know it is a lot of work, but please you should know that is much appreciated.
Zu San Li
03-Sep-2013 11:36 AM
|And thank you for taking the time to share your well-reasoned thoughts and your acknowledgement of my work. You may also find what I hope to share about the qi-gong Master I studied with of interest also so keep checking-in. |