NATURAL HIGH: Acupuncture acts like drug, producing a mystical close encounter of the 3rd kind…
It was my first time back to the community clinic for acupuncture since the pandemic. And my first time anywhere else, indoors, around a group of people, without masks, there for healing a variety of symptoms. I noted the entrance table, with covid-abating supplies, and two other patients, in the waiting area ahead of me. Nervously, I fumbled with my mask in hand, putting it on, then removing it, as I waited for a staff person to acknowledge my arrival.
I’d taken the last available appointment open for Saturday — at noon, surrounded fore and aft by many others, showing on the schedule. The opposite of what I like: going when there are as few others as possible. But my heart leapt, my gut prompted, and I committed; I wanted treatment, and I guessed I could back out or leave if I didn’t feel comfortable; forfeit the fee. Now I was here having to face my fears of infection, my distrust of other people’s health habits, underscored by a pandemic, and 3 ½ years of sequestering, social distancing. But I’d chosen to step out, get some healing. Fortunately, four decades of mindfulness practice, and healing from trauma were potentially available, as well. I paused, breathed, as the office staff worker presented me with forms to fill out, designated me as a newcomer, since it had been more than a year since I’d been in for treatment.
I noted the awkward feeling, telling her I had not expected to fill out forms again, and had no glasses with me. She pointed me to a soft glowing lamp on the desk, and I undertook to see the forms, placed under shiny plastic, making it really hard to read. I signed the agreements, without reading a word. It was time to trust –something, someone. Anything bigger than my anxiety.
Twenty minutes into waiting, the practitioner stopped by to ask for five more minutes, as the treatment room was nearly full, and she was alone on the floor. The wait seemed endless; I considered sneaking out, leaving, because someone was coughing. I couldn’t tell who. When she finally did come to meet and greet and sit to consult with me, I was semi-articulate about what I was wanting. I mumbled something about an insight I’d had on the way to the clinic, an intention for coming. Some freedom from the insecurity of “I’m-not-enoughness” that was causing me to overstock my pantries, be anxious about my restrictive diet, and hold on to things, all kinds of things that were cluttering my life. And probably my digestive process. And that beyond or beneath my hopes to improve my digestion, bloating, gulping air from eating too fast or sluggish energy, I was here to reenter the world of the living.
It was 12:30. I watched the office manager prepare me a newly vacated chair. She spritched the rubbery protective coverings with a disinfectant: a covid precaution. I supposed it was as chemical free as possible. I felt myself try to stay open and surrendered, if not yet optimistic. I sat down, placed my belonging in the allotted basket, and pulled the lever on the recliner. I struggled to relax –which is counterproductive. Across from me was an older woman. She looked Asian to me. And extraordinarily peaceful. Were her eyes open or closed? I couldn’t tell. But her face was smiling, as if she knew the secret I was struggling to recall. Surrender. Letting things Be. As they were, trusting Life.
The practitioner (V) came by, inserted needles, listening as kindly as she could within a ten-minute window, as I mumbled on about feeling nervous. Kindness was needed: for myself, not to be judgmental or embarrassed, that I, the teacher of well-being was not handling the situation as well as I thought I should. V. sympathized, and before running off to remove needles from two patients needing her attention. A needle art my brow, another atop my head crowned the effort, just as I always request. V. even agreed to return, mid treatment, for an added swirl, if time allowed. As I wished.
I noted that most everyone else in the room had an infrared lamp on their feet for warmth. The room was air conditioned. I needed no lamp, or blanket. My circulation was good –a good thing I thought.
I liked the meditative sound track –always a plus for the acu meditation, resting while qi is built. Closing my eyes, I let go as best I could, and focused on my body. On the sensations, mild air flow across my exposed skin, hum of the a.c., soft dialogue from the (foyer) between the new arrivals, and staff…
Softly, the memory of peaceful drift, the familiar high under the needles began to return. I could feel the energies moving, slowly but surely. Time began to fall away, leaving me alone. Returning me to the Moment. To my breath. I thought of the lady across from me, with her sphinx-like smile. “Thank you,” I murmured.
Settling down, settling inward, my mind focused on the idea of “protection”: the lovely feeling of being protected, safe, and the easy breathing that attends that. What’s necessary? “Loving-kindness,” said my Wise Inner Voice.
OK. Yeah. The inquiry unfolded further, and I experienced clearly, fear states, versus relaxed, present, kind and trusting states. I felt how fear can constrict and rob me of the feeling I so want, bracing myself for imagined harms that might befall me. Yes, if in real danger, that primal system is crucial: sus out any present dangers, then follow instinct to run, fight, freeze or play dead. But was I truly in danger here, at the clinic? I felt myself not breathing fully… while a cascade of memories floated by, all the times since the pandemic began, that I held my breath, mostly around strangers, too close for comfort. Even in the breeze, having watched videos of aerosols shooting thirty feet in the wind…
I took the opportunity to face my distrust and breathe. A couple of tears ran down my cheeks, but there were needles in my hands, so I didn’t try to wipe them away. I began to feel the horror, the weight of choosing isolation and self-reliance as my go-to for staying healthy. Staying alive. Staying out of debt for any medical costs. Especially since all my in-person income (half my monthly income) had been sacked in March, 2020. But that’s a while other tale.
I had no idea what time it was. I saw other patients leaving, new arrivals. I felt a push to be done, let them have my seat back… But I was quite high, at this point, and didn’t want to stop. I drifted back into my inner places, and received the advising, “trust your heart. Trust your gut. Breathe easy.” I took a couple of braver, really full breaths, and more tears came. I really had been holding back, and that meant not fully inhabiting this body, this Instrument… And as I asked the silent question about how to ‘filter’ out viruses? Germs? Instantly, I was struck by the realization that this intelligent, very capable physical body could perform best when I am NOT in a scared state, but breathing fully. I knew that. I taught that to my own students. But I was being taught that lesson all over again, at a really profound level.
V cast her eyes my direction: I asked if she could do needle twirls on my right side? She accommodated, off again, swiftly, like a hummingbird. I guessed it was OK for me to keep tripping… I indicated I was having a profound movement…
I drifted back inward, to my recent decisions to change my eating habits, again… evaluating the positive –and negative — aspects of agreeing to so many restrictions… What part was me following my gut? Intuition? Wildish ken? What was fear-based, out of touch, trying to follow outside, expert ideas? Again, I sank into the beautiful registering of my incredible, natural knowing… that I often circumvent, in spite of not wanting to… And, I acknowledged that I had not been sick at all, through the covid times, not even a cold… I was doing something right…
I became aware of my thinking, as I was trying to remember all these moments, insights, teachings, so I could write about them later. I noted that I was getting into my head, working at life, rather than allowing it –and me — to Be. Could I trust I would remember? I felt another favorite teaching present for me: “Flap, flap, glide.” That was the gift of high-flying kytes, demonstrating how they instinctively effort when needed –only when necessary — for a lift, then glide, soar on the breezes. “Flap, flap, glide.” The glide aspect was the freeing feeling I wanted; I tended to flap a lot, as if it were the more important aspect of flying. I wanted to fly, freely, again. More tears and trembling jaw, as my body, mind and heart registered both joyful relief, and the suffering I was being relieved of.
“Grace,” said my Inner Voice, “just before you Glide, freely breathing, fully alive, you experience Grace.”
I was so high… so much freed energy was flowing through me. My body was rippling, little quivers all along my spine, energy pouring from my fingers… Like a rebirthing session, long massages and the deepest meditations I’ve known… I was flying pretty free, given that I was in a public place with a dozen other people nearby…
I felt into my time of life, career (Service is a better word idea) muddles, lack of community and steady friendships locally. All due to my habit of preferring my own company often (like Daddy did), doing tasks that are mostly solo (like writing, studying, examples), and pandemic sequestering…. [Flash: teach tantra to SRCSL?)
And a part of me was mindful that I was taking up a seat and a couple of newcomers had arrived. V. passed by, her eyes inquiring if I was done yet? Could I have five or ten more minutes to come down some? I didn’t want to come down… I felt guilty, but what was happening to me, for me, through me was too powerful and important to give up — unless I absolutely had to… So I rode the waves, marvelling that I was both choosing to have what I wanted and needed (within the boundaries of my agreement with clinic protocols), move past my guilt at making anybody unhappy with me, and still riding so high. With no end in sight…
Which eventually ad to take place. V needed the chair, quickly removed my needles, and politely told me I should come during the week (when it’s not so busy.)
I knew I would be dizzy standing up. Moving carefully away from the treatment room, I noted how I would have loved to dance expressively to the music, flooding the room… Sigh. Not allowed. I paid my fee, tucking the cash into a small envelope, and into a pay box. Still high, I went back to the bathroom (my second time), not knowing when I would be OK to drive back home…(Better use the can while I can, lol?) When I came out of the bathroom, I noticed the large clock on the wall in the treatment room: I couldn’t tell exactly, what time it was –why was it hard to read? 1:15? 1:45?
It was hot outside. Traffic noises seemed noisier than usual. Sigh: back to real life. How to integrate the stunning experience of being myself, whole-heartedly, Be-ing, flowing, trusting the moment, trusting what’s next? Willingness to fall off the bliss wagon, again, and again, and rededicate myself to living here and now, fully embodying this Instrument??
Yes, ain’t that the ticket. I got into my car, deciding to drive to a park a few blocks away, to come down a bit more from the high. The clock showed it to be 3:03. OMG: I had left the clinic at 2:45… I’d ben riding a Wave for hours, present, timeless…
I drove the streets, mechanically, caught between worlds. The park was vacant. I easily found a parking spot, getting out, sensing a need to Be, somehow, while experiencing ‘coming down’ from a blissful high. Looking back on that moment, now, I realize how powerful the programming is to ‘resist’ change. And resisting was bringing me down. Closing me off from the heart of my moment, now.
Ain’t that the ticket?