Monday, June 02, 2008

High on qi

That's not a typo. Qi is the Chinese word for life force. Acupuncture, according to Chinese tradition, helps keep qi flowing throughout the body. Qi blockage can cause all sorts of imbalances and ailments, from infertility to insomnia, back pain, and indigestion. Western science has been unable to isolate qi, but western science has also been forced to admit that acupuncture works.

I'm being trained in a very limited treatment protocol, which helps people with addictions detox and sober up. It's very relaxing; trainees take a number of treatments so we know how it's supposed to feel, and we practice on each other before we work on clients. We put the needles in the clients' ears and watch them nod off and drowse. When the room is full, it's very serene.

So today I was needling away, and I saw that Jens, a fellow trainee -- a Swedish massage therapist who looks like Ewan MacGregor and wants to start a sideline in smoking cessation -- wasn't interested in needling any more clients.

"Are you okay?" I asked.

"I'm not sure," he said. "I was fine this weekend, and I practiced on a bunch of my friends. But today I'm feeling kind of jittery. I feel like I'm being affected by their qi, somehow."

"Boundaries," I told him. "I'm trained to keep my boundaries firm. You, as a massage therapist, are used to being in constant contact with your client. It's harder for you to keep up a boundary. If you're feeling jittery, then you need a treatment. Go swab your ears with alcohol."

I was actually kind of glad he'd taken himself out of the action, so to speak, because that gave me more ears to needle. I felt like I'd mastered something very different from what I normally do, something I wasn't sure I could handle. I felt good. Too good?

I started wondering if the practitioners were somehow absorbing the agitated energy of the clients, as part of our role as healers. I know that if I am calm and stable, it's easier to calm an agitated client; I did that at my internships and a few times in the acupuncture clinic, with first-timers. Most of the clients we practice acupuncture on are used to it, but some are still new, and almost all of them have somewhat raw emotions -- that's pretty much standard for anyone in early recovery from substance abuse.

So I try to be especially gentle and calm while administering acupuncture. But I wonder about the clients' energy, and how it affects me. Could it make me hypomanic?

Well, the cure for agitated emotions is pretty much the same as the cure for substance abuse. Not surprising, since blocking out dysphoria is one of the reasons -- the main reason -- people get high. So after I took the needles out of Jens, I had him put some in me. Not the same needles, obviously. They're used once and discarded.

(He also gave me a nice mini-massage in the afternoon, when it was quiet and nobody came in to be needled. I offered to help him publicize his new sideline; since I can't reciprocate with massage, I'll help him write and attract attention, something I know how to do quite well.)

Tomorrow I'm going to ask the instructor if that kind of energy transfer can happen between client and practitioner. The clinic also provides Reiki treatment, another form of energy healing. So they're into the concept of energy moving from person to person. I'm not so sure I believe in it, but I'll see a demonstration this week, so I'm reserving judgment.

I don't love everything about this training. Twice I was prevailed upon to put long-acting acupressure beads on the back of my ear. I first tried them on Wednesday, and by Thursday morning I was so upset that I took them off, because I had an interview Thursday afternoon. (Still waiting to hear from them....) I tried them again on Friday afternoon, and they basically ruined my weekend.

The bead expert said I must be going through a "healing crisis" and needed to work through the negative emotions. Not until I have a job offer in hand -- for that matter, not until I've gotten settled into a routine. I can't afford to get that upset. Yesterday I went to have my diplomas framed and, walking home, got steaming mad. No proximate reason for such strong negative emotions except... the beads.

I asked the trainer if the beads were safe for people who were taking psychotropic medications and she said they were, but I'm not so sure she was right. At least not in my case.
Copyright (c) "Ayelet Survivor"


  1. I had reiki done on me by an amateur, and I felt the energy. It was short term, I'll admit, but it was there.

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  3. It sounds like you're experiencing some powerful, and very real, things. I'm jealous, frankly. I want healing energy and positive emotions and whatnot. Needle me!

    Also, you didn't say whether the needles helped bring Jens back to a state where he could continue ministering. But he did massage you, right, so that's probably what put him back in the happy place :)

  4. Yes, the treatment restored Jens' balance, so he was able to treat clients comfortably in the afternoon. I'll needle you anytime you want; it's fun!!!