“We all need to get back down on our knees,” preacher Raleigh implores the congregation as a chorus of ‘Amens’ arises from the dutiful. He had been illustrating the self-induced problems that we as a collective body, as a nation, and as individuals had made since getting up off our knees in a fever of adolescent obstinacy. In delirium we decided that we could follow the sweet things of the world, the pretty and shiny and comfortable words and feelings; no need for humility because we knew all the answers. They tickled our taste buds and had us coming back for more.
Upon realizing the error of our ways, why then do we incessantly lament over our reckless faux pas and, instead of applying our learning, perpetuate the grand gaucherie? Like a dog chasing his own tail: amusing at first and maddening thereafter. Breaking free of these enigmatic questions by neglecting them, we ascend into the roots of our ways. (‘Ascending’ into ‘roots’ may be a difficult conceptual image, but as we can learn from countless survival stories in real-life and in literature, the only honest way ‘up and out’ is to ‘go down and through’.) But instead of being our roots, we remove ourselves from them and consciously view them from a new vantage point. We become artists and mechanics working on a masterpiece and are able to see clearly what color and/or part we need to complete the piece.
A common diagnosis in our society today, according to Chinese medicine is liver qi stagnation, or simply ‘being stuck in our ways.’ For instance, superstitions are fun for games, but when we begin to put all our faith into them – time-out. Enough of the funny business. Superstitious beliefs, as drying cement, solidify when we forget that our models are only prototypes: symbols, mnemonic devices, templates to help us build a sound structure upon which to begin living. But how exhausting it is to live by rigidity in a clearly dynamic world! Would it even be living? Even if the model intended to teach flow and balance, as most valid idol-ic images do—think food pyramid, a statue of a Buddha, or the Wu Xing diagram—they in themselves are obdurate and static. Yet, the moment we realize we are taking the whole cosmology or system too seriously is one to rejoice indeed! We can laugh out loud as we picture ourselves trying to authentically live our lives through the prism of a rigid model-idol. We are free to be human again. Our health is ready to be restored.
Body positioning, or geomancy, plays an important factor in acupuncture as it does in Chinese philosophy, and as in Chinese philosophy, as it does in the universe. How we position our bodies, whether consciously, not, or a little of both, communicates a great deal to our surrounding world. As Raleigh made aware, kneeling is a way for us to offer sincere apologies and admit our lowliness. In acupuncture, by lying prostrate and face-down we may acknowledge our weaknesses and communicate to the world that we are at that moment unable to be receptive to challenging stimuli. It is a way to give our blood a rest. During cupping, a face-down patient communicated that she was surrendering herself to the caring hands of an artist. By lying face-up we similarly give our bodies the needed rest to realign, but we are also open to changes. In this way the effects of acupuncture can be immediate. A patient recently came into our clinic somber and in pain. By the time I pulled his needles he was refilled with joyous stories: “When I was a grandkid we’d just sit around and talk with them [grandparents], but now they expect you to actually do stuff with them [grandkids]. I got my five-year old granddaughter saying to me on the seabed [family-room floor], ‘Mermaid-boy, you’re not flipping!’”
Positioning ourselves with respect to our world is essentially how healing by acupuncture works. Though we activate one pressure point, its effects are begotten elsewhere. Similarly, in writing this I did not work from an outline or even delineate a definite end result, but began by simply getting on my knees and picking up a pen. By my being activated, the healing flowed by some meridian to the organ—the body—that needed it.
© 2012, Amaya Engleking