When people learn that I’m now an acupuncturist, their first response is often “Oh… how did you decide to go into that?” The note of puzzlement in their voices is unmistakable. What I really hear them asking is “Are you for real—you quit your financial analyst job for this? Is there something worthwhile in this Chinese medicine stuff?”

The answer is YES, but I usually start by telling them “It was a journey” — a  journey that began in my early twenties, when I was seeking relief from digestive problems. My doctors couldn’t find anything wrong or give any answers, so when a friend told me that acupuncture had helped her, I decided to give it a try.

I’d had no idea what to expect from acupuncture, but I was blown away on the first visit: It felt good. The questions my acupuncturist asked me were so unlike anything any doctor had cared about before. At what time of day were my symptoms worse or better? Was I happy with my living situation? What season do I like the most, what foods? I wondered what this information could mean to him. What kind of medicine could possibly care whether I liked evenings or mornings better? When the acupuncturist recommended that I stay away from sugar and alcohol because they caused “dampness,” I agreed to try. I had no idea what dampness was or why it might be bad for me, but I was willing to experiment. My symptoms were improved after the first treatment and completely better after the fourth. In fact, things were fixed that I hadn’t even know were problems (you mean everyone isn’t bloated and gassy after a meal, feel lethargic in the morning, have cramping with their periods? :-).

So began my journey into Chinese medicine. To this day I am amazed at its power to effect sophisticated cures that are described in such simple, poetic terms. The genius of Chinese medicine is that it establishes complex inter-connections in clear and consistent ways. It’s one thing to agree that “everything is connected”, but quite another to improve your allergies by changing your diet in the spring, or treat your headache with a needle in your leg. Such behavior seems irrational because we can’t imagine a plausible connection between sugar and our immune systems, our leg and our head. But increasingly, western science is observing and proving such connections.

In defining our health and healing so broadly, Chinese medicine challenges our notions of what “medicine” can be; over the years I have learned to love its expanded vision. I hope to encourage people to see their lives and their surroundings in a fuller context, that they may be inspired to participate in the healing of themselves, their loved ones, and their world.
Thanks for reading!

Katie Altneu

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