At first, intention and knowledge seem to contradict one another. What is intention? Is it simply wanting someone to heal? If it is, is it enough?
Our intention to help our patients is very strong, otherwise we wouldn’t be in this profession. Yet, how much we care seems to make no difference sometimes. As humans, we tend to believe that if we knew something more, something else, something we do not currently know, then we would make a difference with our patients. This desire gets stronger every time we feel as if we fall short.
In this country, school is part of our professional path. We have to go to school in order to get certified, obtain a license and practice our profession. Other countries establish their own standards on the practice of acupuncture, but most agree on the basic training that needs to be obtain by a practitioner that is about to “stick” needles into flesh. It is common sense, that in order to needle around the ribs, you need to learn how to insert a needle so that you don’t cause a pneumothorax. There are many areas in the body where points are very close to delicate anatomical structures such as the eyes or major arteries and nerves. This will all fall under “basic training” of acupuncture.
No one is born with an innate knowledge of where the acupuncture points are. To a person who is raised in western society, the holistic nature of our medicine is not a “given” understanding. Even though after learning it, it seems to make all the sense in the world. Yes – of course Lungs have everything to do with letting go, that makes sense – but not to your western mind before you studied Chinese Medicine…. In short – We need some basic guides and much knowledge to practice our medicine. With near seventy channels to navigate, our understanding of their function is crucial part of determining a treatment. The more we understand the function of each channel, the more we create an intimate relationship with our medicine. Each point has a laundry list of functions. As we develop our understanding of each point, in relation to each channel system our intention intensifies. Needling the Jing/Well point of Leg Tai Yang in a sinew channel treatment is unlikely to cause a pregnant woman any issues. It is not similar to needling BL67 on a the Bladder Primary channel. Needling BL40 in the context of the divergent has a completely different effect. It also has a different needling technique. Needling techniques were invented to help the practitioner keep the intention in mind. If you have to rotate the needle left or right, you are thinking “well, what am I doing? – oh, I’m tonifying!” As our intimacy grows, so does our intention. It is as if we are on the start line of a race, and we can clearly see the end in our mind. We know to predict the outcome or result of any treatment.
Similarly, we as practitioners should become familiar with our patients. Knowing exactly where they are in their life, what are their goal from the treatment. Why are they seeking our assistance? We help them navigate their pathways. We are not her to tell them where to go. This is an important thing to remember. As part of our cultivation, we need to separate what we think the patient needs, and what the patient is asking for. Coming to a treatment with the intention to “cure” the patient, might very subtly be a judgment of the patient. If this is where our intention comes from the patient would feel confronted, and the treatment might not work.
When we, as practitioners, feel as if we have the answer, when we become over reliant on our “study” or “experience” we forget to familiarize ourselves with the patient right in front of us. In our mind it might sound like this: “oh, MS – I know how to treat that, it was in yesterday’s class” or “I’ve treated someone with this before” or “My friend gave me a protocol for this” – all these – although full of “knowledge”, lack the intimacy that our medicine is built upon: knowing your patient, knowing the points, knowing the channels and their individual flavor and function. Knowledge and intention go hand in hand. It’s a magical dynamic between service and humility.