What is Acupuncture? by Hillary Laferriere
As an acupuncturist, I’m often asked, “What is acupuncture?” In 30 seconds: acupuncture involves inserting solid, hair-thin needles in the body at specific points to effect healing. This is based upon the Oriental medical theory suggesting that, where there is pain, there is stagnation. Among its many applications, acupuncture works remarkably well at moving this stagnation, thus alleviating pain, easing the symptoms of addictions, preventing illness, and reversing the acute symptoms of colds or flu.
Acupuncture works on other profound levels as well. When I have more than a minute to explain, I notice that the power of acupuncture is wonderfully described through story. Below is such a story.
In her initial appointment, I asked Katie why she wanted to quit smoking. She said she felt like a hypocrite. Katie worked as a massage therapist and feared that clients might find out she smoked. How could someone whose calling was to promote health, smoke? She had concerns about the odor, and the toll it was taking on her. She had quit once before.
I asked, why did you start again? She said it was 5 years ago, just after her mother died of a smoking related illness. She’d been about a pack a day smoker since then.
Katie was very emotional when she talked about her mother. Her eyes filled with tears; she and her mother had been very close. While her mother was dying, Katie was afraid, and even said to herself, “I won’t have anyone to talk with, once my mother is gone.”
In Oriental Medicine, the lung is related to the emotion of grief. It was clear, five years hence, Katie was still grieving the loss of her mother.
Her intake form indicated that she had her jaw replaced two years ago. I asked about it. Katie said her jawbone literally disintegrated. Her other bones were fine. The damage was severe. She required surgery—bone from her hip was grafted to create a new jaw. All of her teeth were false.
The acupuncture pathway that runs through the jaw is the stomach meridian. It begins below the eye, extends down to circle the mouth, around the jaw, extending beneath the breast, internally to the stomach, down the torso, the leg and ends at the fourth toe. The stomach meridian rules the stomach organ, and is, of course responsible for digestion—physically and energetically. It’s about digesting food and life experiences. It is also associated with one’s mother and offers centering, stability, receiving nourishment (running through the breast). For many of us, our first nourishment, and first companion, is our mother.
With her first treatment, I gave Katie an acupuncture point to help her reconnect with the love of her mother.
Her homework: If she wanted to smoke, that was OK, but she was to thoroughly enjoy it. I asked her to feel how it feels when the smoke enters the lung. Indeed, “Do nothing but be present with the cigarette. No reading the paper or talking on the phone. Be with yourself and the cigarette, the smoke and your body.” Katie agreed.
In a traditional treatment sense, I did nothing to help Katie stop smoking—no points for detoxification or decreasing addiction.
At our appointment the following week, between sessions, Katie reported she’d smoked three cigarettes. They hadn’t tasted good and she didn’t actually enjoy them.
It was immediately clear to me, and to Katie (pack a day down to three cigarettes in a week!), her smoking was not a physical addiction—it was emotional, and related to her grief.
I treated Katie five or six more times. Several times during those sessions I offered her a clearer foundation, to nourish her bones and jawbone—energetically, this relates to our ancestors and genetics (the foundation of who we are), self-acceptance and self-forgiveness.
Katie noticed the connection and power of her words, “I won’t have anyone to talk with anymore, after my mother dies.” In asserting that, her jaw, being integral to communication, had dissolved.
Part of her healing was to connect with her friends and family. In her life, this manifested with Katie hosting a party for her siblings and friends. Communication, support systems were coming back into place.
At one point, I gave her an acupuncture point called “Great Oneness.” I explained the symbology of the point: Great Oneness offers the gift and image of a child at her mother’s breast, being nourished and enveloped by her mother’s love. Picture a mother and child connected. Mother and Child are One. Katie felt the connection with her mother and wept during her treatment. She was making remarkable progress.
We talked about the Lung and how the Lung is about taking in (inspiration: literal and symbolic) and letting go, exhale.
When it feels like there is nothing, one strives to fill up the emptiness. Katie said she saw how she smoked to connect with her mother—one of her mother’s “less inspiring behaviors,” she said. Katie remembered that her mother loved to knit so she decided to take up knitting as a way of allowing her mother’s love to live through her.
In her own time, she stopped smoking. Most importantly, Katie healed.
Hilary Laferriere-Boly, Lac, is certified in the National Acupuncture Detoxification Associaton (NADA) treatment protocol, developed to assist in detoxifying the body and healing addictions. It is also being studied for use in psychological conditions including post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Hilary is a Diplomate of Acupuncture by the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine, licensed in Oregon and Washington. She is the past President of the South Sound Acupuncture Association. Currently, Hilary is serving as President of the Oregon Association of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (OAAOM).