Quitting Acupuncture : On Transitioning to Herbs-only Practice, Part 4

In the first three articles of this series, I laid out my reasons for making the transition and explored some potential problems that could come up with it. Then I discussed how changes to the container I create for my patients during treatment will support the successful transition. In the same article, I briefly discussed the role that marketing will play in making my new practice viable financially. These, and associated logistical factors, are quite important in making this transition smooth.

Perhaps even more important is the degree to which I take advantage of the new power of focus that I am cultivating with the change.

If I want this iteration of my practice to soar, I need to take advantage of the immense power of focus it helps me to achieve. By eliminating a whole modality from my plate in terms of constant development, refinement and equipment, I will have more hours, dollars and energy to give classical Chinese herbalism the full attention it deserves.

There are three ways I have been, and plan to continue, using the power of focus that herbs-only practice brings. First, focus in my studies and scholarship. Second, focus in my personal cultivation and use of energy. Finally, revisiting the business side of things, focus as a tool for roster specialization and strengthening. By really leveraging the power in these three areas, I’m ensured the success I crave with my transition to herbs-only practice.

Focus in my studies

This is above all the facet of this transition that I am most excited about. I have always felt a huge personal responsibility to continue increasing my knowledge and skill in my profession. This has always included my first love, Chinese herbs, but naturally had to extend to the full scope of my licensure, including acu-moxa therapies of various kinds and advising on diet and movement. Once I no longer have any acupuncture patients, I will feel quite comfortable ignoring that side of the literature unless my curiosity is piqued or there is some crossover in my other studies.

I will of course continue to know what I already know, and I suspect the physical skill is something like learning to ride a bicycle in its neurological persistence. But, now, I can turn the full force of my study energy towards my herbal studies, cultivation of herbs on my property, and engaging more deeply with the international community of people working to support and enhance the practice of Chinese herbalism. Right now, I’m excited about ICEAM’s new monthly lifelong learning salon and have been working through some of Heiner’s herbally focused lectures at Classicalchinesemedicine.org. And I’m doing a project for Deepest Health exploring herbs that are associated with the Liver. I have more time and energy for all of that now.

It’s an incredible feeling!

Despite my excitement, a potential problem I uncovered in the first article in this series still remains. Am I doing the wrong thing by putting all of my eggs in one basket – that basket being Chinese herbalism? I’ll acknowledge there is a practical risk. Trade with China is not something over which I have direct influence, and US/Canadian production of the basic herbs is still not sufficient. The US federal government can always make decisions that alter our access to herbs, as has happened in other places, and has happened here with a few notable herbs. So, if I’m considering this simplification of my practice solely in terms of business or financial risk, I should probably reconsider.

Focus in my personal energy cultivation

Despite those risks, I feel a powerful sense of calm about my decision. And so far, my results are extremely promising, enhancing my sense that things are going to be more than OK after the transition is complete. I think at least part of it is a less definable, more energetic aspect of practicing medicine.

My study of acupuncture always felt stilted, strange. And this despite access to some excellent, vibrant teachers!

I could never decide on a lineage that felt resonant, nor did just roaming around the literature feel right.  I absorbed a mish-mash of styles that work for my patients well enough, but it doesn’t give me much of a sense of personal satisfaction, nor do I see a path for progress. Further, it took a significant amount of work for me to stop translating MY discomfort with getting acupuncture to the patient, and I suspect the suppression of my natural tendencies along those lines has had a dampening effect on my energy overall.

Whatever the path or origin, I am seeing positive effects energetically as I proceed through the transition.

As I am doing acupuncture less, I’m finding that my reverence for Chinese herbalism and my energy to express that reverence is increasing. I’m not one to imbue Chinese herbalism or any aspect of our profession with too much overt spirituality. Just not my style. But, I have found that when I approach this medicine in a state of humility, and with a mind cultivated by meditation and other self care, there is a something more-ness that comes into my practice. The study becomes liturgical, transformative. And my ability to see connections within and between formulas and herbs increases. As I proceed, I am engaging with this side of things as much as I can.

Focus as a tool for clinic roster development.

Finally, I’ll return to the business end of things. My efforts to focus my personal practice on herbalism shifts everything in the clinic. Not only are there simple logistical changes to be made, but it alters the flow of patients through the clinic as well. This change in flow may naturally encourage other practitioners in the clinic to adapt to that change, thereby changing their own personal practices. In our case, we have one practitioner who is more focused on acupuncture than herbs.

My standing out in the clinic as an herbalist allows most or all of the patients who really want herbs to come to me, freeing up most of those who really want acupuncture to go to him. And our other practitioner has additional skillsets that differentiate her. In the end, we have a  more diverse and specialized roster of practitioners while sacrificing none of our commitment to holism and the foundations of our medicine. It will be interesting to see how this influences each our overall development, as well as our hiring processes at Watershed Wellness.

My transition to herbs-only practice is likely to have profound effects in every aspect of my life.

I have always worked to break down barriers between my life and my work. Not by being a work-a-holic in the sense of sacrificing everything for a job. But by focusing on developing my vocation, and working to find the combination of fields and activities that best nourish me. So, when I make changes in my profession, it has wide ranging impacts throughout my life. Only time will tell how profound and lasting those impacts will be – but I have a very good feeling about this.