I still remember the first time I used acupuncture on myself. I had just learned all the points and functions of the Large Intestine channel, and one day that week I happened to wake up unable to turn my neck. Sitting at home with my newly acquired needles, I wondered if I could put my knowledge to good use. I slid a needle into a point on my elbow that connected with the area of pain in my neck...and the pain was gone. Instantly. I felt something in my neck pop, and then it was moving freely, as if nothing had happened. At that moment, I knew I had access to magic.
A graduate program in acupuncture is not easy. In the beginning, it is like learning a completely new language from the ground up. On top of that, there is the medical component, so the workload can feel overwhelming. I have always been a good student, the type who could retain information with minimal work, but during my first year at grad school I felt like I was hanging on by a thread. Although I was still getting A's, it was only with constant studying. For the first time in my life, I was facing an academic challenge that I feared I might not be up to. I remember finding a restaurant/gourmet grocery store that was open all night, and sitting there until 4 am several nights a week with my books and charts, wondering if what I was putting myself through would ever be worth it. I also remember drawing every acupuncture point and pathway on my body in permanent marker and walking around like that for a week, too engrossed in passing my finals to care that I looked like an insane person. At that point, I hadn't yet experienced the magic of acupuncture-it was all just theory.
And then the theories that I had spent a year forcing into my poor, overworked brain started to morph into information that I could actually use. That first year, I cured a lot of hiccups. I wasn't needling yet, but I knew where the points were and what they could do. I would press on people's heads and their headaches would disappear. I would push into areas on the hands, to get rid of back pain. I waitressed throughout grad school, and there are few who need bodywork more than restaurant staff. They are constantly on their feet, stressed out, tired, lifting heavy trays-perfect victims for my acupressure experiments. I remember having the entire restaurant staff lined up in a back room, waiting for me to work my magic and ease their pain. That was how they saw it-as magic. And honestly, that was how I saw it as well.
When I look back, I still wonder if there isn't a magical component to acupuncture. Because now, with a few more years of education and experience under my belt, I just can't understand how those sessions of acupressure worked so very well, when they were more wishful thinking than medicine. When someone comes to me for back pain, there is a whole protocol that I follow dependent upon a long examination process. I would never think of simply pressing into two points on the hand with my fingers for five minutes and sending the patient on their way...yet that was what I was doing back then, and it worked. Not just temporarily, either. Back then, a friend of mine was putting off dental work due to a lack of insurance, and spent weeks suffering and popping pills to get through work. I pressed into a point for mouth pain, hard, for about two minutes. The pain disappeared and never came back.
I wonder if I would have the same results today. So much of what I tried back then should not have been effective...yet, it was. Why? Was it my absolute conviction, the conviction of the partially-educated, that my treatments would work? Was it the faith that my patients had in me and what I was doing? Or was it a combination of both things?