September 9, 2020
By Maria Mandarino, LAc, DipAc (NCCAOM), LMT, MSEd, CSD
There were some strong winds that blew into the valley last night and the noticeable drop in temperature sure feels promising, doesn’t it? Wind creates movement. Movement leads to change. According to the rhythms of Chinese Medicine, we are moving from Earth element into Metal element as we approach the Autumnal Equinox. Earth has to do with how we gather and use our resources to nourish our energy. Metal element is about the deeper structures that govern our life. Where are you falling in that transition? How are you preparing and using your resources to build your life in a new season?
And so I thought this might be a good time for a check in to see how everyone is doing in their process. In the past month, a few of you have also reached out about your experiences finding a new practitioner and I thought this might be a good opportunity to talk about some of that feedback.
As someone who has moved quite a bit, I empathize with what it feels like to strike a chord with a practitioner and then have to find a new one. I get it. All practitioners are not created alike. It does not mean one is better than another, though when you’ve worked with someone for a while and you’ve done deep process work, sometimes it can feel like that. We also become accustomed and attached to a style.
The truth is we all walk into a room differently. That means you and me and everyone else. We all embody our own traditions, experiences, and skills. While it can be uncomfortable when a new person walks into the room, I encourage you to find the gift in that discomfort. It may not be the gift you think you are seeking. Oftentimes the greatest gifts come in the most uncomfortable moments.
That said, when I walked into the room you were in, I brought my own gifts and experiences. I hold training in multiple wisdom traditions beyond Chinese Medicine and I have integrated these traditions into a very unique practice, which is why I called my practice Spirit Point. Yes, “point” is a play on acupuncture. But the name really speaks to the point where spirit and healing converge. What does it take for us to reach that “point”?
I want you to know if you are still searching for the right fit, for a practitioner to walk into the room the way I walked into it, it’s likely you won’t find that. However, we can still do “that” work (the work of the spirit) together. And I’ve been doing it with some of you since the clinic closed.
The work we did was not all about the needles, even though acupuncture is what brought most people in. There are so many factors to be considered in healing, and so much of what transpires is bigger than any of us can fathom. I’ve had this talk with many of you over the past few years. The acupuncture points are the points. We all work with the same map. The way your body responds to those acupuncture points depends on so many things: the season, your nutrition, your age, your constitution, your level of exercise, your emotional state, and yes, the practitioner. You shift one of those things and the whole treatment changes.
I explained when I closed the clinic that it is unlikely you will find all the traditions I carry in one practitioner. This can make finding a new fit seem hard. I am a classically trained acupuncturist. I am a John Barnes trained Myofascial Release and somatic therapist. I am a certified spiritual director. I am an Enneagram coach. I am certified in the Bach Flower Remedies. I practice the internal arts of T’ai Chi, Qi Gong, and Yoga. These are the wisdom traditions that inform how I work. Not everyone brings the same mix to what they do. And other practitioners bring things I never will. It’s a process of discovery to find what you need to heal. It does not mean a practitioner is lesser or greater, though I think there is a tendency to want to think that because it puts the onus “out there” instead of on us to discern and seek what we need, to determines ways where we may stretch and grow in discomfort. Because sometimes if we just keep an open mind, we end up learning we are being called into a new experience.
The reason I am sharing all this is I’m not sure this has conveyed. Yes, not all acupuncturists are the same. Frankly, not all surgeons are the same. Even the clerk bagging your groceries – not all of them are going to handle your eggs the same way. We are each unique and perfect in our uniqueness.
If you are not happy with the results of the treatments you have sought out, I encourage you to think out of the box. It is likely not about the acupuncturist or the style they practice. It is more likely a case of the other elements I brought to my practice as a spiritual director, somatic therapist, and holistic practitioner.
My first semester of school when I trained in AMMA Therapy in New York, over 20 years ago now, my teacher talked about intent. Intent was the basis for that program. And before we put our hands on a patient, we were always asked what our intent was. It’s a question we should all ask ourselves before anything we set out to do. We make tea. We measure the tea. Where is our intent? We boil the water. Where is our intent? We pour the hot water into the teapot. Where is our intent? We set the timer. Where is our intent? We select a cup. Where is our intent? We pour the tea into a cup. Where is out intent? We drink tea. What is our intent? The simple act of making tea can have so many moments of presence. What is your intent? It seems like an annoying question. I know. It irritated us in school too. But it is the question that defines everything. Because it is the question that puts us into relationship with presence. And life, for better or worse, can only be lived in the now.
My teacher went on to explain that because of intent, an acupuncturist does not technically need to set a needle at all. Technically she said, a bodyworker also need not touch a point. There are things that fall into the realm of the non-physical, the esoteric. If you are a fan of The Matrix, “the secret to bending the spoon is knowing there is no spoon.” Often I’d check your pulses in the clinic and I’d record what I felt. We’d talk for a bit and you’d get on the table and I’d recheck your pulses. They were already balanced, but not one needle was set. This is the essence of what I’m talking about. The treatment, we say, is already done. The needles only anchor it. Not everyone practices this way.
Of course, working with the physical world and using physical tools makes some things easier. And that is why we use things like needles.
I’m a big fan of needles. And I’m a big fan of keeping things uncomplicated too. That said, when the needles or other physical world tools aren’t getting it done, that is a good time to consider the value of working with a wisdom tradition, in tandem with your acupuncture treatments.
Or you might be just fine with where you are. Just know I’m here, and I still work the same way with the wisdom tradition of spiritual direction. I am still making Bach Flower formulas. I am still doing health and lifestyle coaching with patients on a limited basis (not treating active western pathologies because I think that would be better served with acupuncture and physical medicine). I am also doing Enneagram coaching and typing with people, which is another ancient wisdom tradition. The Enneagram is a personality typing system that helps us identify our motivations, it puts a light on our lower self choices and guides us toward our higher self choices. It frees us from the limitations of the False Self and leads us to the lightness and joyfulness of our True Self. I do all this work with people online and by telephone.
So, in closing, if you are still seeking a more profund acupuncture experience, rather than focus on “what is missing in the flavor,” I encourage you to consider what you might add to the recipe. Consider that it might take as many as three people to do the work we were doing together: an acupuncturist, a somatic therapist, and someone doing the deeper spiritual work (which may be me, or entirely someone else).
I encourage you to stand back and look at the big picture. The beautiful parts. And the parts maybe yet waiting to be filled in. What is complete? What seems incomplete? What is perfect? What is still awaiting refinement?
Months back I wrote a blog and encouraged you to ask yourself the question, “Who am I now?” as we stepped into a new world, shaped by a pandemic and civil unrest. What is bedrock for you? I had offered you my answer:
I am a leader.
I am a seeker.
I am a space holder.
My answer still holds firm.
If you are interested in learning more about my approach to spiritual direction, you can follow this link: Schedule your inquiry call. For those interested in exploring spiritual direction, there is a half hour discovery call where we both discern if we are a good fit for this work. There is no fee for this discovery meeting. The meeting can be done on Zoom or by phone. If you are not interested in spiritual direction, but want to explore the things I’m doing with this work, you can also follow me on social media. The top of my website has links to the various social media platforms I’m on: www.holdingthesacredspace.com. And if you are interested in a personalized Bach Flower formula and consultation, details about that and how it works may be found at www.MariaMandarino.com. That is also the place to inquire about health and lifestyle coaching.
As always, I wish you the best on your continued healing path. Live your life intentionally. Live in the magic of presence. Find your bedrock. And know it is all holy ground.
Blessings and peace on your journey,
Maria Mandarino, LAc, DipAc (NCCAOM), LMT, MSEd, CSD