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