It was March 2001, and I had recently moved from NYC back to the small town of Amherst, MA in the hopes of finishing up my undergraduate degree at UMass/Amherst. Before summer classes started in June, my dad, an avid cyclist, invited my sister and me to join him on a Cuban cultural exchange program that seemed right up my alley: 13 days of biking all over the island, with the ultimate goal of delivering much needed school supplies to small schools located in the Cuban mountains. A chance to experience a different culture, do some good, AND ride my bike. Perfect!
And oh, what a trip it was! From biking through the yearly crab migration to the ocean (crabs absolutely COVERED the road, claws at the ready to attack our bike tires), to sleeping in a beautiful open air house with the family pigs just outside my bedroom door, there was color, life and beauty everywhere. But what truly surprised me is that this trip opened my heart and my mind to something I had rarely thought about previously: acupuncture and cooperative therapies.
Community medicine in action
On day 11, we stopped in the town of Matanzas on the northern coast of Cuba and spent some time visiting local artisans and a farmer’s market. From there we were told we could visit a nearby medical clinic. My dad is a pediatrician who worked his entire career at hospitals in Minneapolis. Subsequently, I had spent a fair amount of time visiting him at work and was familiar with medical settings. “Well this might not be the most interesting place we visit in Cuba,” I confided to my sister, “but let’s go along because Dad seems interested.”
We biked up to a slightly crumbling, faded two story concrete building and walked inside. There, we were welcomed by the clinic director, a friendly gentleman with graying hair. He offered a tour of his quiet clinic, as fresh breeze blew in through the open windows. I was expecting what I had seen in my dad’s hospitals: patients lying lethargically in their beds, hooked up to machines and dazed from medication.
East meets west in the clinic rooms
First he brought us into a large room right off the entrance. Instead of listless patients in hospital gowns, I was shocked to see to several fresh faced young people who were practicing tai chi. “This is preventative medicine in action,” the director informed us. We climbed the stone stairs to the second floor to witness patients being treated with homeopathic preparations and chiropractic adjustments. In the last room at the end of the hallway six women sat very quietly in chairs. I cautiously peered into the room as the director explained to us, “These patients are receiving acupuncture. If you look closely they have needles in their arms, legs, and heads.” Some women dozed quietly with their needles in, while others looked at us and gently smiled. This was the first time I had seen what an acupuncture treatment looked like.
I turned to the director to comment, “Wow! I didn’t know you could use acupuncture in a medical setting like this,” and he replied, “Of course you can! Not only does acupuncture work well, it’s also much less expensive than ‘standard’ medical interventions. We can accommodate many people in this room, and they can all be treated simultaneously. In Cuba we use whatever works.”
Bringing it all back home
Fast forward to 2007. After graduating from college and practicing massage for a few years, I found myself drawn back to acupuncture and moved (once again!) to Minneapolis to begin my Master’s degree in Asian medicine.
During my education I trained for a few weeks in Tianjin, China at a teaching hospital. This medical setting could not have been more different from Cuba; the shiny halls of the hospital were long, crowded, noisy, and there was a noticeable lack of cooling ocean breeze. BUT, if you peered into one of the many treatment rooms you’d see a remarkably similar scene: many patients quietly sitting or lying on cots, receiving acupuncture together in the same space. Just like in Cuba, these patients and practitioners were participating what has come to be known in the U.S. as community acupuncture (or CA).
Community Acupuncture here at Constellation clinic
Constellation Acupuncture & Healing Arts is integrating this time-tested model of treatment into our practice, and we are happy to announce we will be hosting CA events once or twice a month on Sundays. Treatments will be provided on a sliding scale of $10-$50, pay what you can, no questions asked (cards, checks, and cash accepted). All proceeds from each CA event will go to a different organization that benefits social, environmental, physical, and/or emotional well-being.
Pokes for Planned Parenthood is Sunday, October 1st from 12-4pm
We're excited to host our very first event at the beginning of October. Appointment times are every 15 minutes and start at noon, and we encourage you to book a time in advance! Come dressed in your most comfy, loose clothes that can be rolled up over your knees and elbows. Come with whatever ails you - we can treat it all, from back pain to allergies to headaches. You will be treated alongside others while lying back in a zero gravity recliner in our serene new clinic space.
If you like how that sounds, you'll love that we have even more CA fundraising events scheduled! On October 29 from 12-4pm we will host Pokes for Harvey, fundraising for Organize Texas, a direct relief agency helping victims of Hurricane Harvey. On November 12 from 12-4pm, you can help increase access to mental health support for queer and trans youth through Pokes for RECLAIM. We're adding new events all the time, so stay tuned!
Click below to sign up now - these events are sure to be popular.
I look forward to seeing you there!