Monday, October 1, 2012
I make no bones about it: this temporary plywood door up at the clinic is completely lacking in aesthetics. But the door is only part of the process. Wanting to open it and come into the clinic; telling your friends and neighbors; participating in the community of qi--those are the the bigger parts. The door is just one small piece of the representation of all that. We find them apt metaphors because they slice out a plane of everything and indicate: things on this side of the door are like this, and things on the other side will be like that.
The needles and cups and recliners and comfortable lighting and planetarium music and bespectacled acupuncturists are all still here in their proper places. All those things that make this a door worth opening are still here. And so once more, with feeling: we are open 7 days of week (regardless of what type of door we have up).
Saturday, September 29, 2012
Not to disparage wolves....but sometime in the wee hours of September 28th, our front door was smashed in; computer, money, and a camera taken. While painful certainly, I feel strangely less violated than when I have had my house ripped off in the past. Maybe it's because, although I am an owner, South Austin Community Acupuncture is a public place ultimately. That feels like a kind of buffer somehow. And so it becomes more a matter of just cleaning up the mess, piecing together data from a few days, and moving forward. It's unfortunate that this individual hit a business whose mission is to serve their fellow man, but so it is.
I came home after a long day of cleaning up and tending to insurance and police reports and such, and I sat in my yard staring at a glorious Live Oak, my two canine companions cheerfully at my side, and the woman who is soon to be my wife. I counted my blessings. The inconveniences of the day a small thing comparatively. Whatever suffering is driving that individual to steal is greater than any suffering I have known. My very humble world is resplendent with little treasures of all kinds: the little purple flowers that open up on the fence line in the morning, the countless interactions with the many fine folks who come to us at South Austin Community Acupuncture with all manner of this and that, and on and on....every vantage point a place of beauty.
And so today we are back, with a boarded up door that is not so much a thing of beauty at all. But we are here, same as we were the days before, ready to do what we love doing the most.
Thursday, September 13, 2012
One of the things that you learn pretty quickly when you are working in a community
acupuncture clinic, whether you are a punk in the treatment room or a receptionist at the front
desk, is that a lot of dualisms go right out the window. Health and illness are not these separate, distinct states -- you can see that in the people who come in to the clinic. Most people are on a continuum somewhere, making the best of it. You can also see that the mind and the body are not at all separate either. People’s mental states have enormous influence on their physical state, and vice versa. And of course, a lot of how the clinic is set up is to make the haves and the havenots less separate from each other. So instead of a lot of nice, neat, abstract categories, in a community acupuncture clinic, what you get is a lot of messy human life. (It’s great.)
I think that lack of dualism is a large part of why so many people feel that our clinic spaces are healing to them. Things that were cut apart get to grow back together, in peace. And everything doesn't have to be perfect before you can relax. You get to just relax anyway.
In Western medicine, there’s often a sense that the goal is to triumph over illness. To diagnose it and to beat it and to win. But so often in community acupuncture, we are treating people who are not going to triumph over whatever they have going on. Whether it’s a chronic condition, or it’s age, or it’s stress, or just some difficult aspect of life, there isn’t going to be any clear-cut victorious moment where you get to pop a bottle of champagne and say, Yay, we won! It’s not like that. In fact, even if you do “beat” one condition, then another one pops up, or somehow, the guy’s left knee still hurts for no reason you can figure out, or just when his shoulder pain was finally going away, he gets into ANOTHER bike accident and breaks his arm. A lot of what we do is to help people accept and work with whatever it is: stress, pain, disability, limitations, illness, terminal illness, loss. We encourage and support and accompany people in working with whatever it is that their lives have given them to work with. We try to get out of the way and let them connect with their own inner resources, their own source of healing -- which doesn’t mean that everything gets fixed.
Probably the main thing we are doing in community acupuncture is trying to give ordinary people a better quality of life. That’s not a dualistic undertaking, it’s not a win-lose kind of scenario. It’s creative and it’s hopeful and it emphasizes working with what you’ve got. And of course, it helps immensely that acupuncture itself almost always gives people more energy, better sleep, a lift in their mood, a reduction in their stress. Those are humble benefits but they are very important.”
Keep South Austin Community Acupuncture weirdly busy.
Monday, May 28, 2012
With a sudden groundswell of support, the acupuncture community banded together and actually stopped the Texas Board of Chiropractic Examiners from doing something. That something was a rule that would have acknowledged chiropractors as specialists in acupuncture with minimal requirements.
You can read all about it here.
Saturday, April 21, 2012
Friday, February 17, 2012
I came across a story highlighting a recent survey of integrative medicine centers in the U.S. “One of the most striking, though perhaps predictable, conclusions of this study is that integrative medicine is, in fact, integrative. It integrates conventional care with non-conventional or non-Western therapies; ancient healing wisdom with modern science; and the whole person — mind, body, and spirit in the context of community” (italics mine). What communities are they talking about?
Its highlight, and self-fulfilling, statement: “Integrative medicine is now an established part of healthcare in the United States.” An established part of healthcare based upon a survey of 29 integrative medical centers. Twenty-nine? That's not even one for every state. It seems to me that they are missing some communities. (In all fairness, they were able to identify 60 integrative centers nationwide, but only surveyed 29.)
It made me recall a book that a friend gave to me: We've Had a Hundred Years of Psychotherapy...And the World's Getting Worse. It's co-authored by James Hillman and Michael Ventura. (Ventura currently writes a bi-weekly column called Letters @ 3am that appears in the Austin Chronicle.) The book is a collection of dialogues—conversations, letters and phone calls—that look into the role of therapy. Right off the bat Hillman points out that we are ignoring the impact the environment has on us: “By removing the soul from the world and not recognizing that the soul is also in the world, psychotherapy can't do its job anymore. The buildings are sick, the institutions are sick, the banking system's sick, the schools, the streets—the sickness is out there.” Ventura takes it a step further and says, “Our inner knowledge has gotten more subtle while our ability to deal with the world around us has [...d]istnegrated.”
Disintegrated? Sounds like we need something that's integrative. And so these integrative medicine centers have been popping up and trying to re-establish the foundation of modern healthcare: take our technological breakthroughs in Western medicine, which look at the individual as a machine made up of discrete parts, throw in a dash of “ancient healing wisdom” that knows that the whole is more than the sum of the parts, and voila: ideal healthcare.
Integrative medicine centers are more “patient-centered” and address the “full range” of health issues, because it sounds like that is one of the big missing variables that will help fix the healthcare boondoggle—or at least make those who can afford the doggle happier. But these centers are palaces, generally slick and high-dollar. What community is that in the context of? I look and see that the “regular per session cost is between $115-$124” for acupuncture at one of these centers. That range is so small you should just say it costs $124, you’d save it in employee time wasted on explaining who is at the high end and who is at the low end.
But my main point isn't even about dollars and cents. Practitioners can charge what they want to charge and if people are willing to pay it, then that's no fault of theirs. However, the survey also pointed out that “63% of patients seen are self-referred.” That means more than half the people who get treated with “alternative” or “complementary” therapies are initiating the search themselves—some of them from within that particular healthcare system itself and some who are just looking around for it and an integrative medicine center is all they can find or seems the most credible. “If I’m going to pay a lot of money for this, I’d rather go to a Center.” And that’s really the main point: integrative medicine centers are popping up because people want these alternative options. It’s a market. Something their communities have not had before.
Integrative medicine centers do some great things: they are more apt to be part of the cross-talk between mainstream medicine and alt-stream medicine; they conduct research on alternative therapies to try and examine what has essentially been learned through tradition; and they are on the front line for a lot of patients within the system who have decided their healthcare community is not providing everything their soul needs to be healthy. Yet, is that changing the healthcare environment enough?
I find that one of the great things about the community acupuncture set up is that it goes beyond the idea that a market is available and wants to re-integrate the idea of health with the environment—at least the immediate environment where you are getting care. We often admit here at South Austin Community Acupuncture that we have health concerns, and while we don't overtly talk about them all in front of one another, we do put the healing process in a more public setting—to me that gives soul to healthcare. Gone is the doctor's office waiting room where everyone avoids eye contact with everyone else, because you don't want to have anything to do with someone else's illness. From Hillman and Ventura: “The illnesses are your teachers...[d]evaluing the illnesses and suppressing them removes you from these figures.” And in real communities, illness is not isolated.
At the community acupuncture clinic, in the large treatment room we are all focused on wellness. It creates a web of relationships that is often missing from the health care system today. And that is probably why community acupuncture has exploded onto the scene over the past few years. When South Austin Community Acupuncture opened five years ago it was one of the first ten or so community acupuncture clinics in the entire country. Now there are 161 across the United States. That’s an incredible growth rate. It’s the kind of growth rate that speaks VOLUMES about the “context of community.” It also speaks volumes about the state of the acupuncture profession to create jobs, but that’s beside the point. Whether you come in with friends or strangers, you still find something in this community. And community is, as Ventura calls it, “simply the actual little system in which you are situated.”
-- and here's Ventura's column from earlier this year remembering his friend and collaborator, James Hillman
Wednesday, February 1, 2012
Tuesday, January 31, 2012
Now to see if I can actually pull off cleaning and drying this stuff for future use here at South Austin Community Acupuncture.
Sunday, January 22, 2012
Dec 5, 2011 10:13 AM
I have read your blog in reaction to the “Wiki Qi group” at AOMA and I was surprised to read such strong opposition from a man who wants to make acupuncture more affordable to the community. I don’t know who our Wiki Qi group is but I felt it was a courageous step in addressing this increasing gap between loan distributions, education costs and costs of living. I would agree that some points could have been addressed differently. There was a great deal of passion present in that email as there is here in your blog. Opinions around finances in the world today are an increasingly tender spot , as making ends meet has become a little harder. This is why your service at South Austin Community Acupuncture is so important.
The student is the end of the chain when finances are tight. The teachers desire more money, the book authors desire more money, the administrators seek more money and so there is a need to increase profits yearly to keep this cycle going. But the government is not giving students more money and so what is left over to live with is getting smaller and smaller. The School (as you will recall) recommends that full time students do not work because of the demands of full time education. Therefore, many students, as you apparently did, take the full amount allowed. After purchasing books, supplies, rent, food, utilities, gas, etc there is not a lot of wiggle room and for some it will not even cover that much. Where are the students to come up with the financial backing for these increasing costs?
You point out that it’s only a 3% increase in several places in your blog as if it’s too small amount to fuss over and yet just recently UT students faced a 2.6 % increase and said enough is enough and it looks like the students have won. The school will come to the decision this week. All of these seemingly small increases are adding up. There are other places to cut costs. And this does not need to be a cut to teachers or staff but perhaps a freeze on income. If no one got a raise next year it might balance out. The staff then, as well as the students, would need to find a way to be more efficient. Student loan distributions have not had a raise in a while after all. When students get a raise, the financial award can get passed up the chain.
This would possibly have an effect on your girlfriend’s income, who is employed at AOMA and I have to wonder if this is why you are so incensed by the student movement as you are not entirely neutral to the effects this might have on you. We are all personally affected by these changes.
I respect Wiki Qi’s opinions and call to awareness and in fact I respect your opinions too Wally. I would add that both you and Wiki Qi could work a little on how your tone and choice of words may not be doing justice to the points which you are trying to make. If we can work through the oppositions we might come to some agreements.