I first got interested in alternative medicine while living in the Sonoran desert outside of Tucson. I had this crazily athletic dog and we were always at the vet – swimmers ear, barbed wire lacerations, chunks of cactus stuck in throats and eyelids. My dog loved his vets, they called him Cactus Baby, but I thought, this has got to stop. So I started treating him myself with herbs and homeopathic remedies. I had my own issues as well, recovering from dengue fever and an accident with a bus.
One thing led to another and I found myself in southern New Mexico, living on the Mexican border apprenticing with a healer. He introduced me to a dizzying array of healing modalities — radionics, Chinese and western herbs, magnet therapy, flower essences, crystals, acupuncture, gestalt therapy, you name it. I was especially drawn to Chinese medicine, but his interests had moved on from acupuncture. Since this was the early nineties before you could learn anything and everything on the internet, I spent months pouring over a photocopied acupuncture manual, deciphering meridian charts and trying to figure out what a patella was.
I decided it was time to begin the next phase of my training and I moved up to Santa Fe to study at the International Institute of Chinese Medicine. It was one of the first acupuncture schools in the country, and most of my teachers were straight from China. I had a great experience there and after graduating stayed on as a faculty member. Teaching was so much fun. I got to share the things I was excited about with people who were equally excited to learn them. Additionally, supervising students in the clinic allowed me to rapidly broaden my experience.
Around the same time I opened my private practice and completed an internship in Chengdu, China, and also traveled to Tibet. A little later I co-founded a nonprofit organization for people living with HIV in southern Africa, splitting my time between New Mexico and Zimbabwe. I also had the opportunity to spend a year teaching at the Christchurch College of Holistic Healing in New Zealand, where I was introduced to Maori culture.
I’ve been teaching and practicing Oriental Medicine twenty years now and can honestly say I’ve never ever been bored. It’s not just about treating symptoms; in the broader sense it’s about helping people fulfill their spiritual purpose. Physical and emotional symptoms often feel like impediments, but when you look more closely they may be doorways and sometimes we just need help moving through them.
I’m especially excited about being at MINNCA, getting to learn from and collaborate with the other acupuncturists, the fantastic support staff, the simple relaxed environment where people can come and get the care they need. I stop and look around the room, so many people resting quietly, tucked under their blankets, coming here for some help in their lives. It inspires me to go deeper – how can I develop my skills as a practitioner, how can I deepen my understanding and compassion as a human being. It’s quite humbling really.