Wednesday, October 3, 2012


I read about it ad nauseam. I asked friends to describe it. I was truly afraid of the idea of it. I imagined what the needles would feel like going into my skin. But I also dreamt about the possible benefits in helping me manage my pain. Finally, I decided to try acupuncture with a doctor recommended by my friend Pat.

Stepping into his office is like stepping into a movie set: plush velvet leather seats; a Chinese receptionist who is also the person who mixes the herbal teas that he “prescribes”; walls of bottled herbs of colors unknown to the western world; clean austere patient rooms; and an honest to goodness Chinese doctor! Dr. Li begins his examination by taking my pulse at each wrist and asking unusual questions, like what is your biggest trouble in life right now? He asks me to stick out my tongue, and tells me that my skin looks too tight.

“You hurt everywhere, yes?” he says, walking around the room preparing the table with assorted pillows and towels. He immediately begins a lengthy explanation about diet, emphasizing the impact of meat on my system: “Eat meat today, hurt tomorrow. “

The session itself is not painful, even with the electric lines Dr. Li connects to many of the needles. He also sheds some light, literally, on the area where I often experience the most severe pain– my neck and shoulders. As he inserts each needle I find myself practicing conscious breathing, much like I do at prayer. I know it’s hard to believe, but I even fall asleep with the needles up and down my spine.  As I leave, Dr. Li prescribes a drink that he calls a “tea” and that I hesitantly agree to ingest twice a day. It smells like grass, and not in a nice way. It tastes like grass, and not in a nice way.

A popular saying in Spanish recommends: a Dios rogando y con el maso dando, roughly translated as, I do my part—as I ask God to help me