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Fire in the Treatment Room

There I was, one hot summer afternoon at 2:10, sitting in my office, wishing I had worn a short-sleeved shirt and wondering if Liz, a potential new patient was going to show up for her 2 o’clock appointment. During our initial phone conversation she not only made it a point to inform me that she thought acupuncture was a bunch of “quackery,” but also that she really wasn’t sure she’d be able to make her appointment. She informed me that the only reason that she called was because her doctor recommended it as a possible solution for her shoulder pain. She did however agree to give me 24 hours notice if she was going to cancel. Still, I had my doubts. So, I pulled out the copy of “Women’s Muscle and Fitness” that for some strange reason got delivered to my office that day and started reading an article about people who like to chase tornado’s.

Just as I was getting to the good part, the office door burst open. In walked Liz, a petite woman her late 30’s with short black hair, wearing a red business suit and matching shoes. She was all in a dither, and was sputtering about a meeting that ran over and all the traffic on the Northway. My warm greeting was met with a tense handshake and a quick glance around my office. She pulled out two beepers and a cell phone, put them on the table then sat down, crossed her legs and sighed. She looked into my eyes for a brief moment then quickly looked down at her shoes. “So, my shoulder is killing me and… that’s about it,” she stated flatly. Then she let out a quick laugh and looked down at her shoes again. I spent a few minutes inquiring into her painful shoulder - the exact location, the nature of the pain and how long it had been bothering her. Her flat responses were colored with sarcasm and again punctuated with those little bursts of laughter. What was so funny I wondered? At this point though, I didn’t dare ask.

It was a good question, and one that would undoubtedly lead to some rich conversation. Not now though, considering that we were hovering somewhere around 2 on the rapport scale. However, from a diagnostic standpoint, I was getting some good information.

The diagnostic process that I employ as a Five Element acupuncturist is rooted in a very ancient and simple assumption: That every individual and all aspects of body/mind/spirit are viewed as an expression of the same energies that manifest as the elements of nature - water, wood, fire, earth and metal. Each element has numerous correspondences and characteristics: anatomical, physiological, functional, emotional, psychospiritual, etc. The particular element that I was most drawn to in Liz was her Fire.

Fire corresponds to the summertime - a time commonly associated with warmth, fun, and laughter. We get together with friends and family for backyard barbecues and pool parties. We tend to be more active, playful and outgoing. Our Fire allows us the ability to fully expresses ourselves and to joyously communicate and share our creation. We are comfortable in relationship and in partnership with others.

In Liz, I saw a tremendous lack of Fire. Her frequent and inappropriate laughter couldn’t sustain itself. Her complexion was ashen like burnt out coals. Her voice was flat and almost inanimate. She deflected any warmth that I offered her with cold sarcasm. She couldn’t maintain eye contact for more than a split second. She kept glancing back at her red shoes(with the matching red dress). We often choose to wear colors that correspond to the elements that need attention. Oh yes, and her shoulder pain was along an energy pathway corresponding with Fire called the Heart Protector meridian. When functioning well, this meridian enables us to relate on an intimate level with ourselves and with others.

This poor woman was burnt out, and at the height of summertime no less. I needed to do something fast. There was little to no rapport and she was quickly losing patience with my questions about digestion, sleep and bowels. So, I invited her back to the treatment table, asked her to lie down and told her that I was going to listen to her pulses. “Well,” she said snidely, “you can listen to anything you want, but it’s not about my pulse. It’s my shoulder.” “OK, perfect,” I thought, “This is my big chance.” So I got real close, looked her right in the eyes and in the flattest tone of voice I could muster up and with a hint of a smirk said “You know…. I’ve had a really long week and am feeling kind of beat so since you know so much about acupuncture, how about I get on the table and you can treat me?” There was a long pause, she held my eye contact, then the sides of her mouth started to curl up and suddenly she burst out laughing. This was real down home wet your pants kind of laughter. I laughed too - more of a thank goodness, that was close kind of laugh. Suddenly there was a completely different woman in my treatment room. We were hanging out together. There was a connection. Her fire had been treated. My fire had been treated. I went out on a limb and met Liz, exactly where she was. Until then, she was not going to give me the time of day. I treated her with needles that day first to clear out some old worn out energies. I then needled two points on each hand that would support her Fire energies. Liz left the office that day feeling “energized, clear and relaxed” and with much less shoulder pain than when she came in. More importantly though, she was grateful for the reminder of who she really is. Her hidden warmth and joy blossomed that day. We both made a new friend, and together fully experienced the delicious energy of summertime.

July 2002


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