Tag Archives: acupuncture

Outside Her Head: an Interview with Monica Legatt by Nisi Shawl

28079 yinyangspiral Outside Her Head: an Interview with Monica Legatt by Nisi Shawl

Receiving acupuncture treatments always causes questions to rise up in me. Maybe because that sort of thing happens to everybody? Or maybe it only happens to me, because I’m a writer? There I go again….

I sent Monica some of my questions via email and she answered a few. I’ve split our exchange into two posts. Here, for starters are her responses about getting started.

NS: Do you think of yourself more as an acupuncturist or as a practitioner of Chinese medicine?

ML: I definitely consider myself a practitioner of an entire system of medicine, not just acupuncture, which is only one modality of treatment within Traditional Chinese Medicine. Washington State recently changed my medical license title to East Asian Medicine Practitioner instead of Licensed Acupuncturist to reflect that. 

NS: What drew you to this practice?

ML: I was drawn to the study of alternative medicine when I took a class on it in college from a professor who began his career as a Western medicine physician. He said to me that the cause of disease in human beings is spiritual:

 by the time illness manifests in the physical body it is very hard to treat.

So he left the medical field to pursue a career in ministry, and eventually became a professor of religious studies at the University of Puget Sound, which is where he taught me from 1988 to 1992. His name is Richard Overman, and I consider him to be my first and most important mentor. His class was really about healing within medical traditions that are not divorced from a spiritual or religious origin.

 My area of interest at the time was esoteric religious traditions. Examples of these might be Sufism, or Zen Buddhism, or the Gnostic gospels within Christianity. I thought seriously about pursuing graduate studies in East Asian Religions such as Buddhism and Taoism, but decided to study acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine instead because

I wanted to practice concepts found in these traditions instead of being an academic and staying “in my head.”

NS: Are there other motivations for becoming a practitioner of acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine?

ML: My teacher Richard Overman (mentioned above) told me something I’ve remembered all of my life. He said that very often people are attracted to the psychological and medical fields as students because what they are really seeking is to be healed. They do not end up being good practitioners of medicine or psychology, but they abound in schools for these disciplines.

It’s one thing to study a healing art form academically and it is something completely different to practice it with skill.  

My aim has always been to do the latter.

 

Interview conducted by author Nisi Shawl

 

Let’s All Get in our Little Bubbles…. by Nisi Shawl

2f6d5 thegarden Let’s All Get in our Little Bubbles….  by Nisi Shawl

 

 

What does it feel like? People who’ve never had acupuncture fixate on the needles and getting poked by pointy things. For me, that’s not what treatment is about.

 Let me take you through a session with Monica Legatt, a typical one for me.

 Sitting in a quiet room I answer Monica’s questions about my symptoms. I stick out my tongue and waggle it around at her. She leaves while I settle onto the massage table and arrange my clothing so she’ll have access to the areas where she’s going to stimulate me. Currently that’s my feet, lower legs, belly, wrists, shoulders, and forehead.

 A soft knock and Monica re-enters. I have my glasses off, so everything’s a blur, but I know from past visits that the needles she unwraps from crinkling envelopes are very, very fine–very nearly wires rather than needles.

 Before each insertion she tells me where she’s placing the next needle and why. Most of the time my level of discomfort is roughly the same as if I were plucking a hair from my eyebrows. Often Monica makes small adjustments in a needle to ensure it’s doing what needs to be done.

The result is a bit hard to describe: It’s like that pull and click when a magnet clings to a refrigerator door. Like getting a dance step right. Even though I’m not moving.

 Occasionally Monica warns me I’m going to experience something more due to a particular needle’s insertion. “This is a strong point,” she’ll say, or “This could be pretty hot,” or “This is probably going to be kind of shocky.” She’s usually right. My reaction to a “strong” stimulation can take the form of a not-unpleasant sort of flutter in my muscles or a slight cramp. “Hot” is the right word for the way that a hot stimulation feels. My least favorite is “shocky,” which can range from a mild tingle to–once–a wild buzz I yelped out loud at.

 Within seconds, all this mutes to the barest whispers of sensation. Monica leaves me alone on the table for a timeless time of meditation and fizzing light. I honestly can’t say how long this part of a treatment session lasts. I should be able to, because acupuncture appointments are scheduled, and when they end I check my watch to figure out which bus to catch. Got to be less than an hour.

 I lie still enough not to disturb the needles. I lie comfortably, dreaming yet awake. If I keep my eyes open I may see haloes of color emanating from objects on the ceiling. If I close them it’s to concentrate on pulses of–pleasure’s too loaded a word. “Pulses of relaxation” comes closer to what I’m trying to say. But that implies passivity…pulses of well-being? Whatever they are, Ilike them a lot.

  I’m never bored.

 This, for me, is the core, the essence of how acupuncture feels.

 After a while, Monica comes to check on how I’m doing. So far I’ve always been fine, but I appreciate her attentiveness. Eventually she returns once more, removes the needles, and leaves me again to slowly return to verticality. At the front desk I pick up prescribed herbs to reinforce her treatments between sessions.

 In the introduction to the punk classic by X-Ray Spex, “Let’s Submerge,” lead singer Poly Styrene invites listeners to get into our little bubbles and “gently drift down…” That’s what acupuncture does for me: provides a restorative respite from everyday life’s noisy anthem. I float down, then rise up refreshed, ready to sing. Loud.

 END

 

To learn more about the author, see Nisi Shawl

Fabulous Acupuncture Patient Testimonial Today!

Look what our patient Claudette posted on Facebook a few minutes ago!

Monica is wonderful! She provides a high quality of care with her knowledge and compassion. I was skeptical of acupuncture at first due to my fear of needles but would not give this up now. It makes a huge difference in my mobility and overall healthfulness.

Thanks so much, Claudette!

a522b 006 Fabulous Acupuncture Patient Testimonial Today!