Tuesday, January 12, 2010


2 a : removal or lightening of something oppressive, painful, or distressing

I get headaches. Painful headaches that throb beneath the surface of my skull, making every little thing difficult. When these headaches arrive, nothing seems to really help. A nap might help temporarily. A cup of hot coffee might provide a few moments relief. But these headaches scoff at painkillers. Advil, Tylenol, Aleve. Nothing makes a dent. So when a friend mentioned an acupuncturist that has really been able to help her, I thought I would give it a try. At the time, I was having a lot of pain in my wrist in addition to the chronic headaches and back pain. So I gave it a try. And it's amazing to me that needles - something we often associate with pain infliction - can provide such pain relief.

I've been going to see Dr. Ly for a few months now. We've had sessions where he worked on my wrist, my back and my headaches, sometimes focusing on one area, sometimes addressing all three. But each session provides not only pain relief, but stress relief. Unlike western medicine, where we spend a bit of time in a doctor's office and then take prescribed drugs in the midst of the hurry and haste of our daily lives, a trip to the acupuncturist is almost as relaxing as a massage, with more lasting health benefits. I think this is partly because while receiving the treatment you must lie completely still.

I was amazed during my first visit that not only do the needles not hurt, I can't even really feel them. Unless I move. If I move, it changes the angle of the needle. So I lie very still. I think. I pray. I visualize the pain flowing through my body, into the needles and leaving my body. I relax. I wait. It's as much spiritual relief as physical relief. Because I know these sessions are good for my body. I know they help ease my pain. So I'm not haranguing myself with all of the things I should be doing instead of relaxing during a treatment.

Today as I laid on the table, I thought about how many of our fears about a practice like acupuncture are the same fears we experience in our everyday lives. We avoid acupuncture out of false perceptions of the pain of needles or a lack of knowledge about it. How often do we avoid growth opportunities in our own lives for the very same reasons? I've ignored opportunities for fear of failing. I've stayed home for fear of exposure. I'm shamed to think of the experiences I have missed out on, the things I haven't learned or done, because I am afraid to try. I'm afraid that trying might hurt. And it might. No one will tell you that failure is fun, but sometimes the pain is worth it. Sometimes a needle placed in just the right spot can relieve pain that you've carried for so long you don't even notice it anymore. And sometimes a failure at just the right time can spur you on to bigger and better things - those your soul longs to do.

So I'm hoping that 2010 will bring not just relief of my pain, but relief from the pressure I put on myself to do everything right the first time. I hope 2010 will bring a willingness to take risks in the hope of learning greater things. And I hope I'll take my own path to these things, not staying on the safe sidewalks, but exploring the uncharted areas that hold pain and lessons.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Well written and so true! I am always amazed with my husband because he is never afraid to ask. Seems so simple and yet I never ask out of fear of looking ignorant. Silly. Trying to work on that and grow. Hopefully both of our new year will be filled with throwing out the fear and plunging!