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Can I combine what you teach with my current practice? This good question is sometimes asked by prospective students.
At first I always wonder why the practitioner wants to change their mode of practice after so much study and personal investment. Perhaps they feel that their style of practice has limitations and that a different practice would be more effective. Or, maybe they think that there are some people they cannot treat, and are just now finding that acupuncture is an immeasurably vast and complete practice. Or, maybe they notice that they are making the same diagnoses and using the same sets of points every day.

These factors can lead practitioners to become addicted to collecting information. They want to collect more and more recipes, point prescriptions, tricks, styles, believing that the more they know, the better their practice will be. But the longer a practitioner collects information of different ilks the longer they must sift, combine, edit, dismiss, modify and mix all the information they’ve collected. The results can be confusing. And because the mind is unable to create a clear and direct intention in the treatment room while it compares and contrasts the myriad thoughts that emerge, the treatments become less effective or only effective on some patients.

When practitioners wants to increase their effectiveness in the clinic I suggest that they take what they already know and go into it as deeply as they possibly can—really own it, and develop their focused intention so that the use of their knowledge becomes as potent as it can possibly be. I’m talking real focus: on the channel and its pathway, the patient, the body, the shen, the qi, the movement, the cultivation intention in the room. Very often that work will take a person across the line to more effectiveness. If the practitioner’s treatments still prove inadequate; if they still feel that there are people they cannot help, then a change of style could be the right move, but is best when whole and complete. The practice of Han Dynasty acupuncture which is the foundation of the exquisite training I was given, cannot be combined with modern acupuncture at all. Sinew channel, luo channel, divergent channel or eight extra channel treatments are dazzlingly powerful and effective but would be ruined or even would obstruct healing if combined with a practitioner’s favorite points—points that, in that context, confuse the body and distract it from the level of qi being treated. Of course, the practice of these channels does not constitute a style: is it the stuff of the Nei Jing, the very core and foundation of acupuncture—the roots are deep and branches laden. Highly focussed intention is key. Intention can be crystalline.

Ann Cecil-Sterman
February 8th, 2023.

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