From Patient to Practitioner, and small lessons along the way
(By Paolo Propato, LAc) Having suffered from life-long sinus issues, I found myself at age 24 sitting in a dark room in Florence, Italy as a heavy set man with a big mustache burned moxa cones. The room filled with the strange smell of mugwort smoke. My thought was, “I am paying this guy to help with my sinuses and he is making smoke.” After the session he was smiling and said, “I can help you. It may take some time and you have to do some dietary changes but I can help you.” I still don’t know why I made another appointment, but in the end it saved me from my doctor's push for surgery.
Fast forward to a few years later in Bucks County, when I found myself calling every acupuncturist in the tri-state area asking if I could hang out in their office. As fate would have it the only one kind enough to invite me in was close to home. Grace let me observe and eventually took me on as her assistant as I began to attend three years of grad school in northern New Jersey for acupuncture.
The nights studying, long car rides to school, odd jobs for extra cash-- although tiring and stressful, there was never a moment I thought of stopping. All I wanted was to go deeper into this medicine. The more I stood by Grace's side and watched patients heal, the more I was fueled to keep going. The smell of moxa, so strange years ago, had infused into my cells.
Healing and becoming a healer, with acupuncture
(By Grace Rollins, MS, LAc) My studious habits as a kid landed me in an elite boarding school and later on an Ivy League college. In this academic utopia I adopted the habits of overachievers, both healthy and unhealthy. I learned how to put in very long hours to accomplish goals; but at the same time, how to entirely disregard natural circadian rhythms (pulling "all nighters", operating on very little sleep, and eating at highly irregular times). I learned how to make exercise a frequent part of my routine, but also how to "train through pain" and use stimulants like coffee and junk food to keep going.
My lessons in the Type A lifestyle continued when I graduated and began to work long hours in the nonprofit sector, where our work "was never done." The pattern was to fuel ourselves with coffee, pastries and anxiety, work ourselves silly, and then go out for lots of beers at the end of the week to decompress. It's the kind of routine that gradually chips away at your vitality.
I wasn't even half-way through my twenties when I started to feel the way a lot of middle-aged white-collar workers feel: sluggish, unfocused, often sleepy during the day; always in need of stimulants like coffee and sugar; suffering aches and pains from inflammation, poor posture and repetitive strain. I had acne that seemed to be getting worse with age, not better. I was even on three drugs: two different long-term antibiotics a dermatologist had prescribed me, plus birth control pills. So now I was getting side effects like yeast infections, dry eyes and light sensitivity. I didn't have the knowledge in those days to pursue other options.
I'm pretty sure if I hadn't found a good acupuncturist I would have ended up on more drugs to try to alleviate all these nagging symptoms (or to take care of side effects). A co-worker told me she had seen a local Japanese-style acupuncturist to help with her menstrual cycle-- within a few sessions she had gotten her period back after a several month hiatus. That seemed pretty irrefutable so I decided to give it a try.
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