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Acupuncturists in Hawaii

The Tao of Acupuncture: 

How Balancing the Individual Takes the Focus Off Disease

by Shereen Saiki, L.Ac. of Kaneohe, Oahu, Hawaii

I believe I finally have the answer to the number one question that people ask me as an acupuncturist:  Does acupuncture work? 

Are you ready? Here it is. The question does not apply.

The question 'Does acupuncture work?' does not apply when you consider that to question the validity of acupuncture is to at least acknowledge the perspective that acupuncture does work; in actuality, it is to question the conviction that acupuncture does not work.  I would like to think that human nature has even the most hardened skeptics secretly hoping that one day someone will come along and revolutionize the way we think with a new perspective.  I see myself in those skeptics as I struggled in my early years of study to accept the healing that I witnessed, even as I could not explain how it worked.  With every new inquisitor I meet, I am reminded that perhaps what most people are really asking of me, is the opportunity to try on a new perspective, and be excited again about their decision one way or the other.

Further FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) such as "how does acupuncture work?" and "what does it treat?" continue to challenge my understanding of the practice and, indeed, my own definitions.  I blush at the thought, however, of trying to sum it up for you - something that continues to defy the speed of my keystrokes by inspiring me to stretch the boundaries of my reality and truth.  I would rather start by sharing with you what I love about the practice of acupuncture and invite you to explore the subject with me in the weeks to come.

Before I begin, I would like to properly introduce you to acupuncture.  Up until now, you have only known acupuncture by it's first name, as a stand-alone therapy with a vague association to China.  If I were a herald in a king's court - given the liberty of my own interpretation that is - I would announce it fully; as the practice of the Tao, much in the same way that any modality of conventional medicine is ultimately an application of modern science.  Acupuncture as the practice of the Tao was borne out of a relationship between ancient humanity and unspoiled nature, and has matured over the last few millennia into a sophisticated exchange between modern society and the ever-changing environment. 

The belief that disease and disharmony are a reflection of relationship imbalances between man and nature is a larger perspective of the Taoist philosophy that pervades the theory and practice of acupuncture and, indeed, Traditional Chinese Medicine, (TCM) the system of health care to which acupuncture belongs.  These relationship dynamics are the basis for the TCM approach to understanding the human anatomy and physiology.  Without identification as an essentially Taoist exercise, acupuncture becomes nothing more than an accidental discovery from a puncture wound by stone or wood that gave man an awareness of the nervous system a long, long time ago.  In my experience as both a practitioner and patient, I have come to one absolute conclusion:  that the breadth and depth of this healing art is infinite and inexhaustible.

What I love about acupuncture as a practice of the Tao is that it has helped me to keep sight of the central focus of my practice.  After an eleven-year preoccupation with disease- disease patterns, disease pathways, disease treatments and disease targeting medicines- I opened up to a decidedly more appealing fascination:  the power of the individual to heal from within.  In place of the seriousness of the charge that I was given to solve my patients problems was a sense of awe.  I became more and more reluctant to answer questions about the number of treatments, or how long it would take, as my educated guesses continually overestimated the real time frame.  I saw the hero in the everyday people who engaged in self-discovery and looked forward to the quiet blooming of their activated potential.  As my needles and herbs dealt with ailments from the outside, I delved within by gently dispelling fears and invalidating limiting beliefs that obstructed the view of their own glory. 

The answer to the question of how acupuncture works came after I shed the limitations of my own beliefs and opened up to the spectrum of colors and concepts that had been presented to me all along:  the human being works along with acupuncture.  The human being works- even in the midst of disease.  How often had I heard my techniques professor tell me, insert the needle without stimulation (neutral) and the body will decide what to do with it.  If given the right assistance rather than being controlled and dominated, the human being by default will strive to achieve a balanced state or homeostasis.

This new viewpoint was like being in a space shuttle and looking down at earth with an overwhelming sense of awe and realizing that along the way I had forgotten that feeling.  How refreshing it was to once again be small in the shadow of something so great-  the greatest healer of all.  For too long, this title had been reserved for the best and brightest minds of intelligentsia and academia.  I now understood how alone my patients must have felt in their diseased states surrendering their judgment, reasoning, and faith to those whose language they could neither speak nor understand.  I was dismayed by how dulled their sensibilities became to the messages of pain, dysfunction, and dis-ease that was spoken in their body's own language- the symptoms that only they could describe and that defied mechanistic detection. 

Today my practice of acupuncture as the Tao has extended beyond the clinic into my own life.  I no longer fear diseases whose long-winded conjugated names I can barely pronounce because of the practical, life-thriving skills I have learned.  Most importantly, I have gained self-confidence and come to fully appreciate that I am never defeated so long as I stay true to Nature- a source of power that I can tap into anytime because it is all around as well as within as well as within me.


Shereen Saiki practiced in Kaneohe, on the windward side of Oahu, Hawaii. She has the wonderful calling of healing.