I graduated from acupuncture school in 1999. My first week in practice I realized three terrifying things;

  1. Anything can be anything (in other words, dysfunction in just about any channel or channel combination could be underlying just about any symptom)
  2. Most of my patients exhibited no less than 12 ‘patterns’ and often more
  3. At any moment in the clinical encounter, there were 10,000 things happening and at my utmost level of awareness and presence, I could become aware of at most 30-40 of them

Noise and ignorance! Immediate existential despair in the clinic! What do I hang my hat on? I could just needle Liver 3, Large Intestine 4, Spleen 6 on everyone. Surely there is more to this than that. I had just completed a full year of study and apprenticeship in the Kiiko Matsumoto/Nagano system. I am forever grateful for this gift. Thank you Kiiko! That gave me a solid palpatory basis on which to depend. And so I did. In the ensuing 20 years, I have reinforced that palpation-focused system with Nei Jing studies, the works of Wang Ju Yi and many other influences.

I now practice what I would call a ‘shoot first, ask questions later’ style of acupuncture. When a new patient arrives in my clinic, after no more than 5 minutes talking, I have them on the table, palpating them from their toes to their nose. Only after palpating and sometimes only after observing their initial treatment response, do I begin to ask questions more deeply and assemble ideas around what system dysfunctions are likely to be in play.

I have found this to be a tremendously rewarding approach that continues to grow, deepen and evolve in my clinical practice. Most recently in my clinic, a clear resonance between the six conformations and palpation findings has emerged – and I find it places me reliably and effectively well below the level of the ten thousand things, the symptoms, the veneer of things – at a level of complexity integration where I am finding Acupuncture seems to really shine. In this ‘reverse-engineered’ palpate-first-ask-questions-later process, most patients who come to my clinic appreciate almost instantly that I am paying attention to them in a very different way; that we are partnered in a very dynamic mutually engaging process. I almost never have a boring day in clinic – even after 20 years.

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