Remote Treatments and Credibility – by Ann Cecil-Sterman


October 20, 2020

My job just became even more interesting. I’ve spent years teaching the very intricate art of classical acupuncture to thousands of people, with accomplished students all over the world. I’ve been mostly interested in the Complement Channels—the channels that are responsible for the unfolding of one’s path and also for the management of pathology in order to preserve the function of the organs. To me this is utterly riveting. I’m also trained by my teacher, Dr Yuen, in the advanced use of herbs, qigong, essential oils, stones, diet, meditation and even some shamanism, but I don’t teach any of those things because not only do I love the Channels more than any other facet of the medicine; they have always been compelling to me on a daily basis. I wake up and go to sleep with my husband right next to me, worrying at least a little and sometimes a great deal about my children, and also thinking about the Channels. I think about how to talk about them, how to think about them, how to perceive them, diagnose them, needle them, cultivate them. It goes on and on.

But this year, everything is on its head. The teaching has shifted on a dime. The thinking is so different that if someone had said to me—actually my friend Doug did say this—that “you’ll be treating and teaching without needles soon,” I would have laughed but here we are and it’s completely natural and powerful. It’s as though we’re practicing in a different kind of dimension. Many practitioners, unable to open their practices fully and in some countries not at all, started practicing remotely this year. I actively encouraged it and even made an instructional video about it when we were deep in lockdown, as I began remote practice, myself.

But now we’re at a new stage: wondering about  “legitimizing” remote practice. Last week I received this email from a student in another country in severe lockdown:

Hi Ann,
I have given myself a 30 day qi gong challenge to help me commit to a daily practice. I am up to 24 days straight and its been amazing. Im feeling so much more internally aligned, connected and harmonious.
Yesterday in clinic I was giving a remote acupuncture treatment and I started feeling with my hands like the edge of a field/energetic membrane. Is this what you feel as well? Im assuming the qi gong has helped me be more sensitive?
Later I gave a 10 year old boy a treatment without needles and I experienced the same thing. And feeling around the field once the channel was activated I could sense where blockages were or where emotions were being held. It was quite amazing but I came away feeling quite disturbed about moving towards being a “woo woo energy healer” 😳😂
I suppose I’m asking for reassurance that this is ‘normal’ ? Or a part of cultivation as a practitioner and that Im not veering off the path?
I suppose we are different to other energy healers as we have this amazing structure of knowledge and assessment to guide us?
I think I may need to look at my own prejudices I didn’t realize I had!! Ha ha.. I think I’ve felt superior or more legitimate than other energy modalities without realizing it! 😕

This wonderfully open email illustrates so perfectly the level of questioning practitioners are now engaged in. Even the statements have question marks.

First, the most important thing is the communication we have with our patients and more than anything, that we listen with every cell. Just this past week I took on a new patient (an elderly medical doctor) who declined both diagnosis and treatment: all he wanted to do was talk and cry. I probably spoke fifteen words, if that. As he was leaving, he said, “You are remarkable at what you do; I feel so much better, thank you so much.”  These days nothing surprises me, really, and at the same time, everything is surprising. I took the hand he offered and said, “It’s been my deep pleasure.”

So if communication is the most important thing, if we’re connected via zoom or WhatsApp or even just on the phone with only audio, it’s imperative to be utterly focused, not looking at anything else. One member of my family is incapable of talking to me on the phone without reading or shopping or doing something on her computer. She thinks I have no idea, but it’s eminently clear. The connectedness of her communication is like an old Ham radio, constantly in and out.

That’s all basic; what about the nitty-gritty? What about Channel theory now that we’re practicing remotely some of, much of, or all the time? What about needling technique now? Did we need this all this complex education? Did we (licensed) acupuncturists really need those 3000 hours training, including more theory hours than MD’s?

The answer is a huge yes.

What if I were to suggest to you that the channels vastly predate acupuncture? What if I were to suggest to you that the channels embody, and delineate a universal organization of energy and that every being carries a microcosm of that organization in their body and that the task of being human is to cultivate that organization in order to be able to be free in mind, body, spirit and emotions, in order to embody the clearest vibration of energy possible in an individual lifetime?

Acupuncture is simply one modality of accessing that channel network. Illness is simply a disturbance of that energetic network, created by the mind’s stagnation of thoughts, and by unexpressed emotions. Acupuncture is a way of reminding the channels of their innate nature, their alignment to maximum harmony, to remind them of their natural state, and to remind the body of its natural state.

To do that, we need to activate the channel/s that is out of alignment and work there. Diagnosis is indispensable. The theory is compulsory.  The learning is crucial. The techniques are as pertinent as ever.

Why? Because theory, diagnosis and technique raise the quality of the communication a hundred fold. If you are performing a remote treatment and you’re needling every point with the appropriate technique and your intention is as clear as it is when you’re live in the office, you are communicating in a very sophisticated way to the patient. It’s specific. “With this Channel, we are increasing hydration and blood volume. The Wind will have no space to occupy. Stability will return. The seizures will subside. As I needle into GB-1, the “Fresh, clearsighted crevice,” I feel the enrichment of blood in this body, the relaxation that arises from the release of the tension of urgent blood conservation, and the healing that follows.” As you say these words, you will feel in the channel where the body is not in agreement with these words. You’ll feel the energy in that body and you’ll feel areas where Qi is concentrated and areas where Qi is deficient. Stay with these areas and consciously invite them to become regulated.

This is powerful. If, in remote treatment, you were to just sit there and meditate with the patient (no actual treatment) they might end up profoundly relaxed and that might lead to a realization that worry and tension do not change outcomes and they may ultimately heal having made that change, but the very specific treatment that comes from good training shrinks time. It’s like lightning. There’s no comparison. In remote treatments during covid I have witnessed more intense healings than ever. So much so that many patients wish to remain remote.

But getting back to my student’s email. Is this “woo woo healing”? If it is, count me in.  Life is mysterious.  It’s never been otherwise.

Manhattan, NYC

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