ESSAY - "Why Turning Point"
People have wondered why this practice is called Turning Point Acupuncture. This essay summarizes the reasons, both obvious and personal, for this choice.
Starting with the obvious: the needles used to apply the treatment are inserted into "acupoints", finite areas of the skin that have, over millenia, been found to be associated with different bodily functions. Also, the actual needling can involve the turning or twirling of the needle in the point.
But I mean for the name to have a greater significance. So often people seek out alternative treatment at a critical juncture in their lives. Something has happened to their health that can not be addressed by conventional means and consequently a step is taken in a new direction, "to turn things around". When we seek out new tools for healing, we are looking to rebalance: to harmonize our body, mind and spirit.
Chinese Medicine is especially appropriate for this because it grew out of Taoism, a spiritual belief system. The Chinese believe that we are animated by a life force energy they call Qi (Chi). When this energy is balanced (yin to yang), freely flowing and abundant, we are well. But if through the forces of daily living, or by emotional and/or physical trauma, our Qi becomes unbalanced, blocked or deficient, then we are not well. Acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine are means by which balance can be attained. Obtaining this kind of treatment can help "turn" the tide of our discomfort.
For me, just the story of how I came to practice Chinese Medicine and not traditional Western Medicine is one of transformation:
My western medical specialty is Addiction Medicine (now part of psychiatry), and for some years in the 1970's I treated drug addicts and alcoholics with pharmaceuticals, methadone and the like. I was very discouraged in my work because the results of treating chemical dependency with drugs were quite dismal. I was desperate to find some other way to do this work. In 1980 I went to work in the South Bronx in Lincoln Hospital's Substance Abuse Division. There, because of historical political reasons, no methadone was available. The treatment instead was all holistic and consisted of acupuncture and herbs. I had had minimal exposure to these modalities in my career to date, but my life changed dramatically from then on. I was impressed that the acupuncture helped the recovering addict, and so were they! They brought their family members in with every conceivable physical and emotional complaint. The acupuncture treatments they received from the staff there showed me that this kind of treatment was helpful for the wide range of maladies that interfere with the quality of daily life. I soon apprenticed myself to the senior practitioners and began to study Traditional Chinese Medicine incorporating it more and more prominently in my work. Concurrently I changed a variety of life style practices (taking caffeine, alcohol and highly processed food out of my diet) and ultimately found a working style that allowed me more balance in my life. It would be hard to underestimate how powerful my experience at Lincoln Hospital was to me in changing my life. A real turning point.
And on another personal note, I have danced my whole life and have always been conflicted about the role (place, size of commitment) of dance in my life. The most obvious reason for picking the name of this practice is the reference to the 1977 film, "The Turning Point." The film examines the lives of two women ballerinas (portrayed by Anne Bancroft and Shirley MacLaine), one of whom chooses to have a professional dance career, while the other has a family and a small town dance school. When the women meet years later on the brink of mid-age and compare their respective paths, it is both poignant and bittersweet. Each woman had made life choices that were critical to her future experiences.
For pictures of me dancing click here.
Which brings me to a special note to my fellow baby boomers, all approaching mid-age: the turning point of our lives. Is this not the time for us to take stock of our lives: How do we want to live? Whom do we love? What do we believe in? What do we want?
Regardless of our age, how we take care of our health is a reflection of our individual belief system. Making the choice to have good health practices for sound body and mind is an important one for many of us. Making the commitment to eat nutritious food, to make our bodies flexible, strong and enduring, and to employ energy balancing modalities in our lives (as varied as meditation, prayer, tai chi, yoga, acupuncture, massage, doing volunteer work), parallels the important decisions we need to make about who we are in the world. In Taoism, upon which Chinese Medicine is based, there is the deliberate search for the balance in Life. To have the right mix of work, play, rest, love, spirituality and service in one's life.
And so it is that I see Chinese Medicine as an important tool in the transformation of an individual's life toward that balance. At the critical juncture we can each choose to take the action to turn the tide of our life's direction... and hence the name: Turning Point Acupuncture.
Written 1985, New York City