We had a special visitor at AFEA this week. Long-time acupuncture practitioner and Senior Faculty member, Susan Weiser Mason spent some time with us on Monday. Susan is a graduate of TAI and she mentioned to us that her class just celebrated their 25th reunion! She has many years of experience treating patients with Five Element acupuncture, and we here at AFEA are honored to name her as one of our faculty members.
Susan came this week to share some of the work that she has been doing with Five Element acupuncture in India. Over lunch, she spoke to the interns in Class 26 and 27 about a decision she made to go to India in order to enliven her passion for Chinese medicine, and thus to enliven her practice. She showed a short documentary of the work being done at the Bhaktivedanta Hospice that she has given me permission to post for our greater audience. Take a moment to watch it.
As you can see, this documentary is about more than the effects of acupuncture. It showcases the need for health care professionals to treat the integrity of the patient, no matter what stage of care they are in. I do not say, “treat the patient with integrity or with dignity,” because that should be a given, and it places the focus of the intention on the practitioner. And while it is important how the practitioner behaves towards the patient-who-is-diseased, it is a central tenant of Five Element acupuncture to see the person underneath the sickness. Thus remembering the underlying integrity of that patient’s mind, body, and spirit. In focusing on the patient’s integrity as a being, we realize that showing compassion, empathy and love are as essential a treatment as any diagnostic protocol.
Susan’s visit stirred everyone in the audience, and it was clear that her work was about more than her journey as a practitioner. It was about the expanse of that practice and those she could reach. Her experiences gave our students a brief glimpse of not just the power of Five Element treatment, but also a sense of the possibilities of what a practice can become. Even more so, they saw again the far-reaching effects of this medicine. And I don’t just mean that geographically.
Thank you, Susan, for sharing this part of your journey with us.
Daylight is growing shorter, nights are getting cooler (even here in Florida), and the summer haze has lifted. It’s finally fall- last week’s Autumnal Equinox made it official. And AFEA’s busy season is in full swing. For Gainesville, fall means football games and art festivals. And for us this year, it means exams, first needles, and a brand new clinic class.
You’ve already read about Class 28′s first year exams, but in addition to that excitement, they also received their first needles. The Needling Ceremony is a very important part of the acupuncture training here at the Academy in which they receive their first needle from a senior practitioner. Students spend the first year of their studies establishing a theoretic framework on which Year Two is based. In Year Two, the curriculum transitions its focus away from what five element theory is and moves towards how an acupuncture practitioner uses the five elements in practice. And to signify that shift and to recognize their readiness, students are given their first needle. The ceremony reflects on the significance of that first needle and what it means for the beginning practitioner. Class 28 is safely on its way home now- if not already there- and I wish them several, well-deserved, rest-filled days. It’s been an intense session (pun completely intended), and an intense year of study.
So, while Class 28 is practicing their needling technique on fruit, Class 27 is looking forward to their first human patients. They arrived last Monday for the first day of their Clinical Residency. After two years of intensive sessions, they are now settling in as Gainesville residents, working their way through Internship Prep II, and starting to recruit their first patients. To celebrate- and commemorate- the occasion, the class and their clinic supervisors took a trip on the Suwannee River. In between guided nature hikes, kayaking down the river, and singing along to the official AFEA song-book, they established their intentions for the clinical year experience. I hope to have pictures for the next posting. They have appropriately named their class, “Abundant Splendor,” and I know I speak for the faculty and the staff here at AFEA when I say we couldn’t be more proud of the transformations they have gone through in the last two years, and couldn’t be more excited to see what the next 12 months bring.
Looking at the last week, I find us at another moment of heavy transition, just like last June around graduation. Beginnings have a tendency to feel caught up in the “middle” of the process these days. There’s always a new something, and yet, that new something is part of a much larger picture that one can always just make out on the periphery. Time works in a very circular pattern here. And so, in an effort to celebrate this part of the circle, I am inviting all of Class 27 to share their feelings on the “start” of clinic. I am inviting all of Class 28 to reflect on the “end” of year one. And I am inviting Class 29 to reflect on their first intensive and share how they’re feeling about their second intensive, which is in the not-so-distant future. I’d love to hear where everyone is in this moment.
When I originally saw the schedule for 9/11, I was conflicted. For myself, my own memories of where I was weigh rather heavily. I prefer not to schedule anything important because I believe the day should be one of reflection. Exam days are so fraught with tension and anxiety. While we test students’ knowledge throughout the year, the year-end exams seem to carry so much more importance than all of the others. The fourth session, when students take exams, is also the first time that the A and B sections come together as one class. They’re meeting each other for the first time. Throwing all of that emotional turmoil on top of 9/11 seemed like a lot, to say the least. I couldn’t help but wonder if it was insensitive to the memory of those lost lives and their families to schedule exams.
The more I thought about the situation, though, I realized that, in some ways, taking exams might be the best way to mark the day. Of all the rhetoric that the media has used to describe 9/11, what most resonates with me is how life stopped when the first plane hit the Towers. Time stopped as our country froze in fear. Very slowly, we had to figure out how to move forward, how to live honorably in the wake of tragedy. And that’s what our exam day represented for me this year: the ability to move forward; the necessity of living life to the fullest and giving back.
The student body at AFEA is very unique. It’s comprised of compassionate men and women who have a distinctive purpose to contribute, to bring healing to the world. They are a group focused and determined to make a difference. They have made the decision to change careers, go back to school, so that they can learn how they can best give back to their communities. And through a very gentle, healthy, non-aggressive, and effective form of medicine, they are achieving amazing results. Many of our students express their desire to work with the veteran population to help ease the chronic pain and PTSD symptoms that inhibit the lives of many returning veterans. Through our free veterans clinic on Thursday nights, they work to do just that.
With each intensive, each assignment, each patient, they move forward. They effect positive change. I can’t think of any better way of honoring the lives lost on 9/11 and those lives lost in the ensuing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan than by living with purpose and making steps to effecting positive change where it is needed. And while in between the morning and afternoon exam sessions I asked the students to observe a moment of silence, I was also silently thankful for the individuals in the room with me who are working so hard to help heal the world.