My patient, who is also an acupuncturist, inquires “can I check your pulse?” An essential diagnostic component of Chinese medicine. Her eyes are deep brown orbs, calm and clear.
I respond “Of course!” and extend my wrist. I have small wrists, like my mother.
She runs her wide fingers over the pulse, along the forearm. I feel a warm pulse of energy.
“Everything is good, balanced. Your heart is strong. But here,” she presses more firmly,”I identify sadness.”
Like most people in the West, I grew up thinking of sadness as merely a feeling, generally one to be avoided if possible. The Chinese model makes more sense in grief. Sadness courses through me like blood, weaves through my being, one of many red threads that knit me together. It lights up my Qi like a Christmas tree. I can smile and laugh and feel joy, but I’m still sad. To run away, choke this back this would be denying part of my core.
Sadness is. There is no escape, for any of us.
The good news is sadness also enriches. It makes me more grateful, more compassionate, more sensitive. And how can any of us embace the light if we deny the dark?
Talking about stress levels quickly causes me to feel whiny and self-absorbed. As if I have a virtual latte in one hand, a Blackberry in another, sighing while rolling my eyes to some poor, distracted patron waiting in line at Starbucks- “Ugh! I’m so stressed out!” Yuck. I mean, there are hundreds of thousands of acres of forest burning, children being abused, politico-husbands exposing themselves on Twitter and I’M complaining about being stressed?
So, forgive me, but yes, I’ve been stressed. This year has been unbelievably challenging, but to tell you the truth, I’ve been experiencing significant stress for about five years now. Its been (more or less) one thing after another since 2006. Some good stuff, some downright awful, but lots of associated stress. I don’t seem that bad off, or pathetic– I come to work every day to a great job. I maintain a healthy weight. I’m usually pleasant and cheerful and acceptably groomed. But things were shifting in subtle ways. I have been struggling with more feelings of depression. Historically a champion sleeper, I was starting to lie awake in the early morning hours. I often felt stretched thin
My mother in law gave me 10 sessions of acupuncture for my birthday, and it really could not have come at a better time. After only one session, I felt so much better! My mood lifted, I felt relaxed and easy. More like my old self. It was enlightening– I didn’t really realize how poorly I felt, until I started to feel better.
Its hard to take care of yourself when you are stressed out and busy, but of course, that’s the most important time to do it. Acupuncture might not be the cure-all for everyone (although I’m telling all my patients to go!), but be it time with a friend, the overdue haircut, a massage or a walk– do it! You’ll be glad you did.