A Message from an Acupuncturist
It is 9 o’clock in the morning, and you are searching the internet for a doctor who can take a look at your ankle you rolled during an evening soccer match yesterday. The pain is bearable yet still throbbing, not to mention your ankle is now the size of a tennis ball. While searching, you come across several acupuncturists not far from where you live. This reminds you of your close friend's sports injury who told you was helped with acupuncture. Recalling this, you look further and notice some of these acupuncturists appear to have Asian names and some do not. Assuming your thoughts are correct, you choose to contact an Asian practitioner because, of course, they MUST know more about what they are doing since they are Asian. Plus, their methods are probably more authentic. Right?
This common assumption is incorrect and is damaging to the profession of Oriental Medicine. It spreads even further into the many fields of medicine serving the public today leading to further discrimination of minorities, ethnicities, and genders. Since when has it become so acceptable to discriminate against a trained, licensed, and well-qualified health professional whose only interest is helping you live your life with as little suffering as possible? Dare I insert the word “racism” into this message and invoke a conversation laced with hate? This is not my intention, but it seems the injection of such is nearly unavoidable. Sadness ensues me when I hear that simply because my race is different from others, I must “learn to accept the truth” that was etched by others into the foundation of medical history. A foundation seemingly built upon “should-bes” rather than “could-bes”.
Yes, I am not Asian. What’s your point?
Times change. Shouldn’t people do just the same? Sure, I am not fortunate enough to be a descendant of an ancient lineage of Asian doctors famous for serving the masses, developing world-renowned healing techniques, or safeguarding the health of a royal family. What I am, however, is inspired, motivated, and interested. Inspired by the history, literature, and origins of the medicine I practice; motivated by my mentors, teachers, students, and patients; and interested in the unique life stories of people like yourself. Healers are not formed or defined by their ethnic roots let alone by similar patterns repeated in society. They are also not defined by what they see in their patients (e.g. health conditions), but rather by what they help their patients to see in themselves and how they empower them to change and make wise choices for the sake of their own health. More personally, when I search for someone to provide me with care, I refrain from making assumptions about their abilities I have yet to experience firsthand. For these abilities may be exactly what I need on my road to recovery. Of course, one's experience is an acceptable form of measure when making the choice to have someone evaluate your health. Experience, though, is achieved no differently than the height and strength of an oak tree. The seed must be planted and nurtured well enough for it to sprout and begin its journey out into the world.
If only we could learn to listen to someone’s story without writing the end before it was told.
Sadly, during my years of exploring the Asian medicinal and martial arts, I have been a victim of subliminal discrimination, false assumptions, and impossible expectations. I have been viewed as an outcast, thought of as “the unique one in the family”, and doubted repeatedly to the point where others give up and change their career altogether. I have been called in Chinese a "waiguoren", or literally "outside country person", which is ironic because I'm fairly sure I was born in this country where I am also licensed to practice this medicine. Wouldn't that technically make you, the name-caller, the outsider? This is beside the point of this message though, and while I endured this constant bombardment of negativity and bullying, I studied rigorously, forged my mind, and trained my body. Not so that I could defend myself, but rather so that I could learn to open my eyes and heart for the sake of every patient that enters my treatment room. And to this day, I still repeat these previously painful words in my mind so that I may remind myself they are not definitions of who I am or who I have become. For the people who have uttered them do not have permission to define my existence or evaluate my abilities with false pretense. If only we could learn to listen to someone’s story without writing the end before it was told.
Your healing has nothing to do with who I am, only who you will become.
So again, yes, I am not Asian. Who am I then, you ask? I am someone who cares. I am someone with hope. I am someone worth reaching out to who will care for your well-being, no matter your race, gender, appearance, or societal status. I am someone whose hope is for you to create memories laughing and playing with your children while they are still young and innocent; to remember what it was like to open your heart to your beloved mother and father before they took their last breath; to never forget the feeling of the soft breeze grazing across your skin as you stand in your hometown hundreds or thousands of miles away. True healing comes from within ourselves and will take you anywhere you wish to go. Besides, your healing has nothing to do with who I am, only who you will become.
So, I ask you. The next time you search for a care provider, will you choose based on their name, their ethnicity, their gender, or their ivy-league education, or lack thereof? Will you close the fable-filled storybook modern society has been reading to you over the years and begin writing your own story of how you see the world of healthcare and how you wish to be cared for? Have you even asked yourself HOW you wished to be cared for? It is certainly a conversation worth having with yourself.
After all, you may not be Asian either. But there is certainly no one else like you. Never forget that.
Thich Nhat Hanh has been a great inspiration for millions of people across the globe. His rich publications, inspirational quotes, and his healing presence have all been important reminders for all.
He has directed us on the path to finding ourselves:
He has taught us to love again through the shadows of hate.
And he has given us reason to say two powerful words: Thank you.
Unfortunately, these two words are routinely (and often weakly) uttered after we have decades of practice. Fortunately though, there are many opportunities that exist each day to emphatically share these two powerful words. Not with the intention to change someone's life, but rather to take a moment in their life and yours to stop, look at them eye to eye, place a hand on their shoulder, and firmly say "Thank you." By doing so, we assuredly recognize the other person for who he/she is and the value he/she has in our life.
Acknowledgement of another human being raises awareness of the undeniable connection and relationship we all have with each other. Beyond acknowledging another human being, we can express our gratitude to the earth beneath our feet and to the heavenly space above us. Both of which provide us with everything we need in every moment of our life.
A study found in the NIH library states that "An existing body of research supports an association between gratitude and an overall sense of well being...". Sharing gratitude is an important step to a healthier you, a stronger community, and any loving relationship. Never forget the power of these two words when expressed with full intention. And just as important, never forget how to accept this acknowledgment for yourself, for when you thank another person, you are in fact thanking yourself for the very same reason. I thank you for reading.
Take a moment this coming Thanksgiving Holiday to practice sharing these two powerful words with someone in your life.
With sincerest gratitude,
The past is a seed that is planted in the present and grows into the future.
Yesterday, I met a group of friends, who also happen to be acupuncturists, over a delicious meal and good conversation. After not meeting with them for four months, I was reminded of the importance of having my own community of friends; to share our life stories, the current day-to-day happenings, and our visions of the world transforming into the ultimate living environment.
As I filled my mouth with extraordinary flavors of a savory Chinese beef dish, I held my cup of hot tea and listened to the friendly and inspiring conversation. My friend Brooks began to describe a moment from a course he teaches about the roots of the medicine our small group sitting at the table practices and shares in common. A student in his course, a native from China, began to declare at one point that his ability to speak English was "not very good". Brooks, drawing on some wisdom from his days in the same program, invited the student to change his declaration to one with more possibility: "My English is better than it was yesterday." This tiny shift in words has the potential to create a huge shift in the person speaking them. This sharing from my friend Brooks reminded me of the reason I recently shared something about my late grandmother (shared below).
When we live with the constant mindset of "I need to improve myself.", "My skills aren't quite where they need to be.", or "I'll NEVER be THAT good!", we bring ourselves to a screeching halt on the road of life's potential. If these kinds of phrases are running through your head or coming from your mouth, you have then exercised your ultimate ability to withhold yourself from experiencing your full potential. In essence, you've tightly tied a tourniquet around the moment in your life that comes just before the moments of tomorrow.
In moments of what we consider failure or areas of our lives where believe we are lacking in something, we must acknowledge all we have done up to that point. We should instead take a moment to reflect on what we've accomplished. It is important to understand that all of our actions we've taken were opportunities to learn from (just like the quote from Thomas Edison above). Repeating an action, like speaking English, gives us a chance to improve upon it each day.
We should be thankful for this seed, plant it with care, nurture it, and watch it grow into something magnificent. Every moment in our lives is important, valuable, and not to be considered wasted. I will leave you with the words I recently shared about a person who had great impact on who I am today; my grandmother.
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inspirational ideas on healthy living through eastern medicine, optimism, and possibility through empowerment.