I grew up in Lancaster County PA on the outskirts of a small town surrounded by wooded areas and fields of corn and alfalfa. The land and the creatures who inhabited it were always important to me. In high school I became fascinated by books and how stories could transport me to places I had never been. I headed off to college and studied painting and liberal arts. After receiving my bachelors degree I returned to Lancaster and eventually discovering sculpture as a medium that resonated deeply with me.
During those post undergraduate years I found my way to acupuncture the way most people do, through pain. For years I had been experiencing an ache that radiated down my leg. I wanted to know why and I wanted it to be gone. When a new friend suggested acupuncture I was skeptical but curious. At 29 I had begun to carry a cane in my car just in case I had a really bad day. It occurred to me that this was ridiculous. I was young, much too young to be thinking about a cane! I decided that it was time to try something new and I took the leap and made an appointment.
It didn’t happen immediately. Although I felt better, clearer and calmer almost immediately. It took 10 or 12 treatments before the pain was gone and it happened gradually, almost without my awareness until one day I realized that it wasn’t there. Chronic pain is sometimes like that. I worried it might come back and it did, but so very quietly and it didn’t last. In the 20 + years since I have rarely felt that pain and then a treatment or two is enough to vanquish it.
Freed from the pain and inner tension that had been such a part of my fabric, I applied to graduate programs in sculpture. That process landed me in Hadley, MA at UMass Amherst's MFA Sculpture program. There I met my wife, Inga. It was a wonderful and intense 3 years. Post graduation I taught in the Art Department at Mount Wachusett Community College as an adjunct professor. After 7 years of teaching I realized that I wanted to work more intensively with individuals who were struggling and needing support. I decided to return to the other side of the classroom. I needed to know what this mysterious practice was that had left me pain free and feeling lighter, calmer and more grounded in myself. Four intensive years and 180 credits later I completed my Master degrees in Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine at New England School of Acupuncture.
When I began the study of acupuncture and traditional Chinese medicine, I thought that I would learn something magical and mystical. What I found instead was a tradition grounded in science, in observation, hypothesis and experimentation over thousands of years. According to the Oxford Dictionary science is defined as:
the intellectual and practical activity encompassing the systematic study of the structure and behavior of the physical and natural world through observation and experiment.
That definition could aptly describe the history of traditional Chinese medicine. There is something that feels “magical” about an acupuncture treatment but it is not without foundation. It is not magic. As my first acupuncturist, Diane Connelly said “you don’t have to believe in it for it to work.”